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MAC0M3, ILL!.. 15 

This collection of stories about 
Illinois has been selected from a 
large group of similar items that have 
been sent in past months to newspapers 
in the state as a part of the Project's 
information service. Editors and their 
readers have received them so cordially 
that a larger field of usefulness 
seemed to be open to them - supplement- 
ary reading for homo study groups and 

State Supervisor 



Stories from Illinois History 


In the early 1850' s a movement for dress reform swept over 
the United States, putting a new word into the language and 
shocking or amusing the conservative. This movement was origi- 
nated by Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, editor of a magazine called The 
Lily published at Seneca Falls, N. Y. The new costume resem- 
bled that of Turkish '.to men and consisted of baggy trousers of 
ankle length v7ith a tunic or coat reaching to the knees. 

The "bloomer" fad soon reached Illinois and affected the 
costume of men as well as women. Evidence of this occurs in an 
item appearing in a Boston news magazine. Gleason's Pictorial 
Drawing Room Companion . July 26, 1851: 

"A La Elooraer - At Monmouth, Illinois, a new style for 
gentlemen's dress has made its appearance. It is a sack coat 
reaching to the hips, with pants closely fitting the body and 
limbs, and fastened at the knee, after the manner of the old 
style, with long stockings to match* Tassels are attached to 
each knee, and complete the suit. We suppose this to be a set- 
off to the change in the ladies' costume." 

Page One 

Stories from Illinois History 


Descendants of pioneers now living in Highland, Illinois, 
tell with interest of a co-operative plan adopted by several 
Swiss families for settlement in thet part of the state. 

Shortly after the immigrants arrived at St. Louis, by way 
of the Mississippi, on October 1, 1831, they agreed to pool 
their possessions so that they might have the advantage of com- 
bined resources in the purchase of land, materials, and home 
supplies. An inventory showed cash of $6,195.23 and a number of 
personal belongings, each of which was given a definite value. 

Before continuing their journey to Illinois, they made 
several purchases: "Fritz," a horse, $60. OC; two cows and 
calves, $20.00; three bee-hives, $6.00; twenty-six chickens, 
$2.25; twenty-one hogs and a cow, $48.00. The breaking of a jug 
of whiskey, costing $2.25, was considered to be a bad omen. 
However, another was purchased for $3.37. 

After crossing the Mississippi, they traveled 35 miles to 
the vicinity of the present location of Highland. There, they 
purchased at first 700 acres for a sum not mentioned in the 
narratives. Later, 350 additional acres were bought for $2,727. 
For a brief period, the new settlers carried on their common 
tasks of breaking ground and building cabins, but before a year 
had passed differences developed, property was redistributed, 
and the plan abandoned. 

Pago Two 

Stories from Illinois History 


A railroad locomotive is, of course, an unusual weapon for 
a turkey hunt, but in 1874, a conductor on an Illinois railroad 
was said to have used one in capturing his Thanksgiving dinner. 
In the autumn of that year, he one day saw a flock of wild tur- 
keys running along the track ahead of his engine when passing 
through the densely wooded region of Center Grove, east of Mo- 
mence, Kankakee County, 

Standing on the pilot, he waited for the locomotive to 
overtake the fleeing gobblers, according to an account in the 
Momence Reporter for December 10, 1874, As they rose into the 
air, the smokestack knocked down three or four of them. Clutch- 
ing one of the larger turkeys by the feet, the conductor hauled 
it into the baggage car, v/here he found his prize weighed 
twenty- two pounds. 


Like other great plains states, Illinois was often the 
scene of fierce prairie fires in the early years of its history, 
and even after the Civil War f Sometimes they threatened whole 

Commenting on such an occurrence, a newspaper writer in 
November, 1870, said: "There was an immense prairie fire be- 
tween Peoria and Pekin, Thursday night. So it seems that Illi- 
nois has not ceased to enjoy these magnificent but costly exhi- 

Page Three 

Stories from Illinois History 


Hazards of conducting a retail business in pioneer Illinois 
have been recorded in an anecdote told of a merchant of Adams 

According to an early account Asher Anderson opened a store 
in Quincy in 1827 in the barroom of Brown's Tavern, with a stock 
valued at less than $1,000. The enterprise delighted the people 
of Adorns County, for until this tine nearly everything they used 
had been "hone nade," and the change fron linsey-woolsey and 
rough cotton materials to pretty figured calico and smooth wool- 
ens was welcome. 

Within a year, Anderson invested $3,000 in a stock of goods 
to be sent up from St. Louis. Unluckily, the boat he had en- 
gaged sank, and his goods, consisting mainly of woolens, cottons, 
calicos, muslins, and ribbons, was lost in the Mississippi. 
When the boat was raised, the cargo was sent to Quincy. 

Anderson, whose capital was nearly gone, put up his damaged 
goods at auction in the hope of salvaging something. Strangely 
enough, the stock was sold at prices that gave Anderson a con- 
siderable profit, for the bright colors of the cloth had run to- 
gether in bizarre but not unpleasing patterns, and the gay ma- 
terials caught the public fancy. 


An Illinois family neo.r historic Jacksonville in Wayne Coun- 
ty has owned and occupied the s.ame farm for 108 years. The ori- 
ginal title of part of the land, a certificate on sheepskin, 
dated 1830 and issued to Jeremiah Cox, the original owner, bears 
the signature of Andrew Jackson, then President of the United 
States. A receipt of 1838 shows taxes of $4.47 on 295 acres of 
land. By 1885 descendants of the family had acquired 1,305 

Page Four 

Stories from Illinois History 


"Onaquispassippi, " lengthy but pleasant sounding Indian 
name, today means simply Salt Creek. This stream bordering Ma- 
son and Menard as well as traversing Logan, DeWitt, and McLean 
counties, was known for a time as the North Fork of the Sanga- 
mon River. Salt Oreek, which receives the waters of Lake Fork, 
Deer Creek, Kickapoo, and Sugar creeks, is said to drain more 
territory than does the Sangamon. 


In 1891, Illinois coal miners of Carterville, in Williamson 
County, extracted what was then considered to be the largest 
lump of coal ever mined. The piece, 25 inches high and wide and 
nine feet in length, weighed more than two tons. In 1893, it 
was sent to the World's Columbian Exposition. 


When pioneer school children in Illinois sat quietly at 
their rough hewn desks, schoolmasters shouted, "Study harder." 
According to accounts of early Monroe County schools the result- 
ing din of many small voices repeating words in their lessons 
waa "terrific," but it sounded as if pupils were applying them- 
selves to their work with more vigor. Spelling lessons were 
said to be the greatest noise makers. 

Page Five 

S t o r.i es from Illinois History 


Autumn colored foliage of more than 4500 species of trees, 
shrubs, and vines delights thousands of visitors to roads and 
hiking trails of the Morton Arboretum, Du Page County* Since 
its establishment in 1921, the arboretum, named for J. Sterling 
Morton, pioneer in the reforestation movement, Secretary of 
Agriculture under Cleveland, and founder of Arbor Day, has at- 
tracted many visitors in the spring and fall. Designed as an 
experimental station for scientific research in horticulture 
and agriculture, the arboretum now extends over nearly 750 
acres of ground and contains nearly every variety of woody 
plant able to survive the Illinois climate. A reference li-* 
brary and museum are housed in the administration building. 


Early settlers in Illinois had plenty of trouble in trying 
to keep cows and horses at home, for in pioneer times the whole 
state was open range country,. Although strays frequently had 
notched ears - the common form of marking used by early Illi- 
nois farmers - it was sometimes difficult to find the owner of 
the mark, who might live a long way from the place where his 
roaming property was halted* 

In 1827, residents of Wabash County facilitated the return 
of lost live stock by constructing a "stray pen" in the public 
square of Centerville, the county seat from 1825 to 1829* 
Strays were returned to this central point and the owner de- 
termined. At first it was sometimes necessary to advertise* 
Later, "A register of Live Stock Marks" of all residents was 
kept by the County Clerk, who was thus able to notify the owner 
of the stock promptly. 

Page Six 

Stories from Illinois History 


Fifty years ago the fish population of Illinois was great- 
er than it is today, not because the finny folk do not like the 
state, but because its water area is not so large as it used to be. 
Experts declare, however, that as many fish inhabit each water 
acre today as were there a decade before the Civil War. In view 
of these findings, it seems th£.t some unsuccessful anglers will 
have to look around for new alibis. 


The law of supply r.nd demand of public school teachers was 
a problem in Illinois as far back as 1877, Legislative records 
reveal that unsuccessful attempts were made to abolish normal 
universities. In the same year it was proposed to suspend nor- 
mal school departments in public schools on the grounds that 
"there would be three times as many normal school graduates as 
would be needed in any one year," 

Normal schools were established by law in Illinois in 1857. 

Considering the travel luxuries enjoyed by college athletes 
of today an item about the mode of travel of an Illinois athletic 
delegation in 1891 affords a marked contrast. 

Appointed by the Athletic Association of the University of 
Illinois to represent the institution at an inter-state field 
day contest in St, Louis, the athletes donned old clothes and 
proceeded "to beat" their way from Champaign to St, Louis, one 
paper reported. After the competition was over, they returned 
by using the same method of securing transportation, 

Pago Seven 

Stories from Illinois History 


Until recent years, anti-horse thief associations were fair- 
ly common throughout the Middle West. An Illinois newspaper of 
1892 contained the following item: "The Cahokia Horse-Thief De- 
tective Agency, recently organized under the special act of the 
legislature, has filed its certificate of the election of speci- 
al constables by said association • • . seven good men," 

In some instances, after the advent of the automobile, anti- 
horse thief associations were reorganized as groups to prevent 
the theft of automobiles. 


An invitation to "take a cup of tea" in many early Illinois 
homes was likely to mean a new taste experience in beverages. 
Inasmuch as genuine tea was both difficult to obtain and very 
expensive, many substitute brews were used by the pioneers. 

Among the more popular "teas" were those made from s^rcamore 
chips and redroot leaves. In Mercer County, the rcdroot leaves 
were first dried under a dutch oven, and then pulverized by roll- 
ing between the hands. When brewed and sweetened with honey, 
this drink, known locally as "grub hyson," was not ho.rd to take, 
it was said. 

Page Eight 

Stories from Illinois History 


A section of Illinois where the Mississippi River flows 
northwest and an observer may look east across the "Father of 
Waters" to the Missouri shore is a topographical oddity to be 
found in the southwestern tip of the state. 

Around the southern part of the peninsula-like am stretch- 
ing in a southeasterly direction for about 14 miles, the Missis- 
sippi makes a great horseshoe bend. Here it takes a northwest 
course for a distance of nearly ten miles. Along this stretch 
of river, a similar arm from Missouri extends north for about 
ten miles into the hollow formed by Alexander County, on the 
one side, and Pulaski County on the other. An observer stand- 
ing on the tip of Alexander County and looking east across the 
river would be gazing at a part of Missouri. 


A couple of fat pigs or a good milch cow were accepted as 
one— third of room and board costs at McKendree College, Lebanon, 
in 1830. If the student could also bring a few sides of bacon, 
some pickled beef or pork, a barrel of flour, or a suitable a- 
nount of other produce, another third was deducted from his 
bill. This barter system was in common practice at other 
early Illinois colleges. 

Two- thirds of the cost of a person's education was as much 
as the schools would allow in the form of farm goods. The re- 
mainint third for room and board, and the tuition fee, which at 
McKendree amounted to eight dollars for a five months' term, had 
to be paid in cash. 

Page Nine 

Stories from Illinois History 


Any Illinois resident who has a white mulberry tree growing 
in his yard aay be reasonably sure that mbitious pioneers 
planted it or its ancestor in the hope of developing profitable 
silk manufacture. 

Many trees of this kind were brought to Illinois in 1839 to 
encourage silk production. Since long experiment had revealed 
that worms feeding on the native mulberry produced beautiful but 
useless cocoons, the white mulberry, known to be favored by 
silk-producing worms, was imported from Europe. 

In 1839, the Illinois legislature went so far in fostering 
the silk industry as to pass an act offering a premium of one 
dollar "to every person producing ten pounds weight of cocoons 
of silk" from -vorms raised in the state. This bounty, and 
another for the reeling of merchantable silk from native worms, 
remained in force for five years. 


Domestic science was taught in a public school in Knox 
County as early as seventy-five years ago. According to ac- 
counts of the time, a Mrs. Minard, the mother of four children, 
gave a course in this subject at the "Old Salem School" near 
Victoria, where she also instructed her pupils in the "three 

Girls in the school, according to their ability to spell, 
took turns rocking and feeding her snail baby, who was regular- 
ly brought to the schoolhouse along with the other children in 
the Minard family. 

Page Ten 

Stories fro a Illinois History 


A sixty-nine word Presidential speech delivered in a driv- 
ing rain to less than a dozen people dedicated a monument in 
Illinois. The memorial, on the courthouse lawn at Pontiac, 
honored "All Soldiers and Sailors of Livingston County." 

On a June day in 1903 Theodore Roosevelt, then President 
of the United States, stepped off his train into a torrent of 
rain and was driven through flooded streets to the Courthouse 

Accompanied by thunder and lightning, the chief executive 
proceeded with the unveiling. Facing the audience, he deliv- 
ered, according to accounts, the following address: "Mr, Mayor 
and Fellow Citizens, I shall not try to make an extended speech. 
In the name of the people of Livingston County, by whom it has 
been erected, I dedicate this monument to those who have de- 
served it. I greet you all, and thank you for coming out in 
this rain, and I especially greet the members of the Grand 
Army of the Republic, and these National Guards." 

He then was driven back to the train. Fifteen minutes had 
sufficed for the entire visit and dedication. 


The story of how an Illinois pioneer who had taken up land 
in Vermilion County was cured of a bad temper is still occasion- 
ally related there. According to the account, a committee 
called on him and threatened to refuse to loan him coals should 
his fire go out. In those times, when the common match of today 
was unknown, refusal of such a request for coals was like re- 
fusing food to a starving man. The threat never had to be 
carried out* 

Page Eleven 

Stories from Illinois History 


It has been carefully estimated that 9,702 wrought- 
iron nails stud the surface of the door which separated the up- 
stairs living quarters from the early Illinois store and liquor 
dispensary on the ground floor of the original Bridges Tavern in 
Johnson County. 

This famous log building, which has since become part 
of the barn on the Bridges' property, was associated with the 
early settlement of southern Illinois and the transfer of the 
Cherokee Indians. Broken flint a short distance northeast is 
evidence in support of the story that an Indian village was at 
one time located at this points 


According to an historical account, a resourceful and 
determined Monroe County pioneer farmer was plowing a field in 
which stubble was so heavy that his son had to use a pitchfork 
to keep the blade clear. When the team was turned out at mid- 
day, the boy, before going home to eat his dinner, hid one of the 
collars, hoping to rest while his father made a. new one* After 
a moment's reflection upon not finding the collar, the father 
promptly stuffed his leather breeches with straw and stubble and 
placed them about the neck of the horse. Bare-legged, he con- 
tinued plowing for the rest of the afternoon and his disappoint- 
ed and somewhat amazed son also kept busy. 

Page Twelve 

Stories from Illinois History 


The Illinois public welcomed eagerly in 1876 the is- 
suance of silver coins to replace the despised fractional 
greenbacks, according to records of the time. On March 2 of 
that year, the Chicago Evening Journal prophesied that "silver 
dimes and quarters are likely to jingle in the pockets of the 
people at some Indefinite time not far in the future." 

Little more than a month later a second article an- 
nounced the passage in the House of Representatives of a bill 
substituting silver coins — 10, 20, 25, and 50 cent pieces — 
for the fractional paper currency then in circulation. "The jin- 
gling substitute," said the Journal , "will be quite acceptable." 


The custom practiced by children in Illinois a genera- 
tion ago of "spotting" or "stamping" white horses has practically 
died out. To "spot" a white horse, the child moistened the fore- 
finger of the right hand with the tongue and laid the wet finger 
on the left palm. Then the left palm was struck with the clench- 
ed right fist. 

After a hundred horses had been thus "spotted," a wish 
was made, which it was believed would come true unless one or more 
of the horses had a black hair in its coat. The decline of the 
custom is laid to the few white horses now seen in pastures and 
on highways because of the rise of motor travel. 

Page Thirteen 

Stories from Illinois History 


Set in the midst of a fertile Illinois farming dis- 
trict, the Green River dunes, a few miles north of Annawan in 
Henry County, stretch for miles to the west and east along what 
is known as the Sand Ridge. Here live numerous lizards and 
turtles, and the constantly shifting sands transform the land- 
scape from day to day. During summer months the dunes are 
visited by many tourists. 


The first jail in Marion County, Illinois, must have 
seemed like a sort of cave to the wrongdoers it confined. Ha v ** 
ing neither doors nor windows, this dungeon-like prison was 
entered by a trap door in the roof, and a ladder was used to let 
prisoners in or out. The one-room log structure was built in 
1830 at the cost of $500. 


Sometimes early Illinois dances represented recreation 
accompanied by grief. In 1836, dances in Champaign County 
were held on rough floors of split timbers, and the merry-makers 
executed the steps in their stockings or bare feet. Dances often 
resulted, it is said, in bruises, injuries, or even a missing 

Page Fourteen 

Stories from Illinois History 


Illinois tourists have been wondering for years about 
three remarkable configurations of rock in the Mississippi Pal- 
isades State Park, near Savanna. Features of high-cheeked 
Indian are so noticeable that many persons insist they are the 
handiwork of an Indian sculptor in bygone times. 

Within the park, which resembles the famous Palisades 
of the Hudson, may also be seen two columns named "Twin Sisters" 
and another formation called "Open Bible." Geologists agree 
that the images were carved by the Mississippi River during 
thousands of years of erosion. 


Privations of pioneer life in Illinois did not seem 
to affect the menu at the Jacob Mason hotel of Farraington, Ful- 
ton County, according to an account of the famous game dinners 
served there* Hearty appetites of hardy guests were challenged 
by venison, wild turkey, prairie chicken, quail, squirrel, 
rabbit, turnips, celery, cabbage, beets, onions, potatoes, vari- 
eties of cakes and pies, cranberry, strawberry, and blackberry 
preserve, and choice of beverage. 

Page Fifteen 

Stories from Illinois History 


A wolf and deer hunt extraordinary in which more than 
200 hunters combed the woods and prairies of four counties help- 
ed to make history in Illinois in 1846. 

The large hunting party was organized to destroy wolves 
and to secure venison. On the morning of the hunt, men and boys 
from DuPage, Kendall, Kane, and Will counties formed a huge cir- 
cle, the axis of which was Rob Roy Slough near the present vill- 
age of Sugar Grove in Kane County. The encompassed area extend- 
ed north to St. Charles, and south to Oswego. As the hunters 
closed in, they drove the game before them. Before the day end- 
ed, forty deer and scores of wolves were killed. 


Cheese in many varieties was once thought to be a key to 
wealth in Illinois, according to newspaper accounts telling of 
the boom in the cheese industry in the state between I860 and 

After 1863, when a cheese factory at Elgin began 
operations, many others were established, and two years later, 
there were seventeen in the state. By 1871 newspapers were be- 
ginning to joke about them. A newspaper item of May announced 
with mock seriousness that a "500 cow-power" cheese factory had 
just been erected at Decotah. 

Page Sixtoen 

Stories from Illinois History 


Unusual weather conditions during Christmas day, 1862, 
are recorded in the diary of an Illinois farmer, John Edward 
Young of Menard County, who kept a forty-five year account of 
his work and the weather, with observations on politics and the 
Civil War. 

An excerpt from his diary, printed in the Journal of the 
Illinois State Historical Society, records: "It rained with- 
out intermission all might accompanied with thunder & light- 
ning. It has rained incessantly all day and the earth is del- 
luged with water and the streams flood full. This is certain- 
ly one of the most remarkable Christmas days that I have ever 
saw. It is more like an Aprils day than the twenty fifth of 
December. The ground has not been froze for a week past and 
tho wheat and grass is green and growing. The day has been 
totaly unfit for out door work I went to *ithons late in the 
evening. It is reported that the boys from our neighborhood 
has had a fight with the robblos at Jackson. There is great 
anxiety felt by all as we can get no particulars." 

entries in the diary show that normal weather conditions 
prevailed during most of the winter season. 


A train hauling 600 tons of coal from Illinois mines had 
all eyes of the railroad industry turned to this state in 1890 
when it completed a run from Du<iuoin, in Perry County, to New 
Orleans without change of crew or engine. Newspaper accounts 
of the trip asserted that this train was not only the first but 
also the heaviest through freight in the history of railroad- 
ing, up to that time. The fireman, one Ed Adams, observed, 
"It was the most cod I ever shoveled, and a tough job." 

Pago Seventeen 

Stories from Illinois History 


An Illinois event described by a newspaper reporter as 
"unparalleled in the annals of the show business," occurred at 
Peoria in the summer of 1871. On that date "Old John Robinson," 
the owner of a circus, "sold 27,736 tickets and gave four shows 
— one at ten o'clock; one at one o'clock; one at three o'clock; 
an another at seven o'clock." 

The account says further, "Over 5,000 people were turned 
away who could not even get into the museum or menagerie to say 
nothing of the circus." 


How romance during the early days of Illinois overcame an 
unlooked for delay in the marriage ceremony is told in an early 
account of Jo Daviess County. In 1825 a young couple wishing 
to be married left the Fever River Settlements, near Galena on 
the south, and journeyed to Prairie du Chien, about one hundred 
miles to the northwest, before they could find someone author- 
ized to perform the ceremony. 


The first permanent settlement in the eastern part of 
Clinton County, Illinois, is said to havo- been founded by two 
boys in thoir teens. In the winter of 1815-16 William and 
Simeon Walker camped on the Kaskaskia River a few miles south 
of Carlyle. Simeon was only eighteen and 'William was two years 
younger. The boys remained there alone during the winter, but 
in spring, other pioneers arrived. 

P age Eighteen 

Stories from Illinois History 


Aside from being ninth mineral producing state in the Union, 
Illinois is world famous for the glass sands found in the north- 
ern part of the state, around Ottawa, Wedron, and Utica. Of 
the national production of 2,750,000 tons of this mineral in 
1937, Illinois produced 628,020 tons, or nearly 23 per cent. 

Unlike most sands produced elsewhere, which are mainly 
used locally, sand found in this area is shipped all over the 
United States and commands a much higher price than the aver- 
age. At the other end of the state, in Alexander and Union 
counties, there are very extensive deposits of silica, which is 
the state's second non-metallic mineral, after coal, in point of 
value . 

Illinois also produced 19 per cent of the nation's molding 
sand, which is found near .wlton and Rockton, and 13 per cent of 
polishing sand, which comes principally from the western edge of 
the Ottawa district, near Utica. Coal and fluorspar to the ex- 
tent of 11 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively, came from 
Illinois mines, 


In the 1820 's a leading manufactured export of Illinois 
was castor oil. One large factory manufacturing the product 
Madison County produced 500 gallons in 1825; 800, in 1826; 
1,000, in 1827; and more than 10,000 in 1830. The standard 
price at this time was <fi>2.50 a gallon. 

Page N iaeteen 

Stories from Illinois History 


In 1892, Illinois residents learned with considerable inter- 
est that a timepiece once owned by the famous English poet, John 
Milton,. 1608-74, was on display in Chicago* A newspaper item 
asserted that the watch was made by Thuilliar of Geneva in 1670, 
and still kept perfect time after more than 200 years of service. 
Its silver case included an alarm that ran 30 seconds. As Milton 
was blind during his later years, the numerals on the dial were 


Steamboating on the Illinois River was at its height in the 
1840' s and 1850' s. Among the vessels navigating the river at 
this time were the "Garden City," the "Ocean Wave, " the "Cata*» 
ract," the "Acadia," the "Prairie State," the "Polar Star," and 
the "Belle Gould." The "Prairie State" and the "Acadia" were 
burned in the great St. Louis fire of 1849 in which several 
blocks of buildings and twenty-three steamboats were destroyed. 


Mint Creek, a small Illinois stream that empties into the 
Embarrass River west of Falmduth, in Jasper County, received its 
name for reasons less obvious than its relation to the popular 
aromatic herb. It seems that the heavily wooded area surround- 
ing the creek was once the refuge of a gang of counterfeiters 
and that the name was suggested because of the large amount of 
counterfeit money said to have been circulated from the district 
many years ago. 

Page Twenty 

Stories from Illinois History 


Pioneers who broke large tracts of Illinois' farmlands in 
the 1820' s and 1830's little realized that the clay fields of 
McDonough, Warren, and Green counties would lead to the develop- 
ment of an important industry. The clay fields were first de- 
veloped for stone-ware ma-king in 1824. Farm drain tile was for 
years the principal product. After the Civil War r the tile and 
Pipe industry rapidly expanded, and the present time three of 
its great centers are at Macomb, Monmouth, and White Hall, 


As early as the 1870' s art in Illinois was encouraged by 
associations that sought to interest the people of the state in 
the work of local as well as outside artists by means of lec- 
tures, shows, and fairs. According to the Joliet Signal of No»»- 
vember 1, 1875, the first prize for sculpture at one of the early 
exhibitions was awarded to the statue "Hope," a marble "design- 
ed and manufactured" by C.C. Braun of Joliet. 

Two years later the third annual exhibition of the Jackson- 
ville Art Association was held in Oden Hall at Jacksonville, A 
newspaper report of the exhibition stated that the display in- 
cluded oil paintings, etchings, crayon works, heliotypes, and 
autotypes, borrowed from "private parlors and the different ed- 
ucational institutions of the city 1 ' and several works of "lead - 
ing artists in St. Louis and other large cities." 

Page Twenty-one 

Stories from Illinois History 


In earlier days when debating as a pastime attracted much 
attention in Illinois, serious minded persons of LaGrange were 
somewhat surprised when they learned, near the close of 1878, 
that young people of the village were more interested in dancing 
than debating. According to a newspaper item the youthful in- 
habitants of that community had been denied the fun of dancing 
since the winter before, as a society had rented the only avail- 
able hall. When the hall was vacated the debaters wanted to meet 
there, but a group of citizens decided that the dancers should 
use it and the debaters could wait until the end of the season* 


Among the pioneers of Illinois was a minority described by 
Thomas Ford in his History of Illinois as "ignorant, illiterate., 
and vicious," These men, according to the author, who was gov- 
ernor of Illinois from 1842 to 1846, usuallj' wore coon-skin 
caps, buckskin trousers, hunting shirts, and leather moccasins, 
and carried butcher knives. They were sometimes referred to as 
"half-horse" and "half-alligator men, " "flat-footed boys, " 
"butcher knife boys," and "huge-pawed boys." 

It is said that this group was greatly feared by some po- 
litical candidates of the day, who found difficulty in making 
their platforms acceptable to it as well as to other citizens* 

Page Twent y-T w o 

Stories from Illinois History 


Among early settlers in some parts of Illinois, "wool 
pickin'" parties, as well as "corn huskings," "sewing bees," 
and "log rollings," made fun out of hard work. 

An historical account of Mercer County describes a "wool 
pickin'" as a strictly feminine activity. Conversation and 
laughter lightened the tedious task of combing the fleece to re-< 
move all dirt particles and to straighten it for carding before 
spinning and weaving. 

Every year at sheep shearing time, .girls and matrons for 
miles around were invited to the "pickin 1 " parties. Popularity 
of the events was increased because after work was over, the 
parties became social gatherings attended by the men. 


A homemade Illinois griet mill, constructed from a hollow 
stump and an iron wedge, furnished cornmeal, principal ingredi- 
ent of pioneer larders, to a Will County community during early 
days. A small portion of grain was placed in the hollowed 
stump and the wedge, suspended from a spring pole, was raised 
and lowered to break the kernels. Hot water poured over the 
grain helped to remove the husks. 

Another example of how necessity fostered invention during 
pioneer days may be noted in a corn cracker resembling a huge 
coffee mill used in Jo Daviess County in 1828, Housed in a 
large dry goods box, the cast iron cracker, the hopper of which 
held about a peck of corn, served residents of Galena for many 

Page Twent y-T h r e e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Early settlers in Illinois, like pioneers in other parts 
of the country, frequently used wooden latches to bolt their 
doors. A leather thong, stout cord, or rope was used to raise 
or lower the lock. If the house owner wished the door to be 
opened from the outside, he permitted the thong to dangle from 
a small hole near the bolt. This device led to the expression, 
"The latchstring is out." To passersby it meant that they were 
welcome. When the owner wanted to lock his door, he merely 
moved the string inside. 


Tragi-comic reverbrations of the death of Socrates of 
Athens in 399 B. C, occurred in Illinois some 2300 years later. 
A copy of the Alton Courier of September, 1859, contained an ac- 
count of a speech delivered in Alton, which had so ma.ny classi- 
cal references that the pioneer audience was puzzled. After a 
dramatic explanation of Socrates 1 drinking the fatal hemlock 
potion, the orator was interrupted by an early settler who 
wanted to know why the Greek philosopher was forced to drink it. 

"Because he knew more than his neighbors," the speaker re- 

Immediately one man in the audience hurried home. He an- 
nounced that a "bunch of Athenians," whom he imagined to be 
Yankees and others, "were coming to give poison to them who 
knows more than their neighbors." 

"That means you, Pa," the family agreed, and belongings 
were at once packed. Next day the frroily started for Arkansas. 

Page Twent y-F our 

Stories from Illinois History 


Typical of the tales of enterprise and heroism connected 
with early Illinois steamboating is the story of Captain Clark 
and his s tenner, "Josephine," of St, Louis. 

In the winter of 1858, miners of Galena were short of pro- 
visions, particularly flour. Unheralded, Captain Clark set 
forth in the "Josephine" with a full cargo of provisions, A 
mild winter made it possible for him to break through the ice 
of Fever River and dock at Galena in February, a feat never be- 
fore accomplished. An early chronicler records that the captain 
was received with joyous amazement by the residents. 

The "Josephine" arrived just in time, however, for the tem- 
perature dropped rapidly and nearly a week passed before the 
vessel could start on its return trip to St. Louis. 


The more dogs, the more tax, was decision of an early Illi- 
nois board of supervisors. A dog tax law was passed in April, 
1861, by the supervisors of Brov/n County, providing that one dog 
could be kept free of tax. For the second an assessment of $1 
was made, and three dogs cost the owners $2. Residents who 
possessed more than three dogs were charged "double thereafter," 
Revenue from the dog tax went into the public school fund. 

Page Twent y-F i v e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Now only a memory, privately owned highways were once fair- 
ly common in Illinois, and sometimes a nuisance, according to a 
letter sent to the editor of a pioneer newspaper in 1879. 

"It is in the shape of extortion," the writer complained, 
"of money for tolls, for the privilege of navigating through a 
sea of slush, mud, end pitch-holes with which the road is 'im- 
proved. ' " 

In the early days of the state, however, there was seldom 
enough money in the treasury to build public roads, and road 
making was at one time required of settlers. Sometimes "im- 
provements" consisted merely of notches cut in trees along the 

Toll rates for privately owned roads were often set by 
county commissioners. One list of regulations provided for a 
charge of not less than twelve and one-half cents for a man and 
horse; twenty-five cents for a one-horse wagon; six and one- 
fourth cents for each horse or head of cattle, and two cents for 
each hog or sheep. 


During the famous "crinoline days," when women in fashion 
wore dresses of bulky material, Illinois railways faced a per- 
plexing problem. One company considered a plan whereby "crin- 
oline must suffer a partial collapse or pay for the luxury of 
expansion." It proposed to place numerals on the seats to show 
how much space could be occupied for one fare. "The luxury of a 
regular spread-eagle, fully-inflated, double- expansive car ride 
will be in the neighborhood of forty cents," an official pre- 

Page Twent y-S i x 

Stories f r o 3 Illinois History 


Although the most important archeological expeditions in 
Illinois have been made during the decade, 1928-1938, as early 
as 1892 a pre-historic ruin on top of a high hill in Calhoun 
County yielded significant copper and stone relics, as well as 
a number of skeletons. 

Unusually valuable evidence of early life have only re- 
cently teen found by scientists from the Department of Anthro- 
pology of the University of Chicago in what was perhaps, a 
pre-historic fortification in Massac and Pope counties. Made 
of thick logs, and strategically located behind one of the 
sloughs of the Ohio River, it may have protected a village of 
aboriginal "mound builders." Ten mounds on the old Kincaid 
Homestead in Massac County, and nine mounds in Pope County, on 
the farm belonging to E. E. Lewis, comprise the group. Arche- 
ologists, who have boon digging there each summer since 1934, 
call it the "Kincaid Site." 

Other expeditions, directed by Dr. Fay Cooper-Cole, of the 
University, have worked in Rock Island, Adams, Will, Cook, 
DuPage, Jersey, St. Clair, and Fulton counties. 


In 1855, roars of guns and cheers of a populace greeted 
the arrival of a newspaper press in an Illinois town. Citi- 
zens of Kowanee raised a subscription for the purchase of the 
Henry County Gazette , then published in the neighboring town 
of Cambridge, and arranged for the moving of all the equip- 
ment. When the printing press arrived in Kewanee a celebra- 
tion followed. The new paper was called the Henry County Dial , 

Page Twent y-S even 

Stories from Illinois History 


Hidden among the hills of Jackson County within two miles 
of the village of Pomona, in southwestern Illinois, a natural 
rock bridge is considered by tourists to he among the remarkable 
features of the celebrated Ozarks region. Research workers 
comparing its dimensions with those of a similar bridge in Rock- 
bridge County, Virginia, found that the Pomona bridge, with a 
span of 100 feet, a height of 80 feet, and a width of nine feet, 
is ten feet longer, but narrower and not so high. Both bridges 
were formed by erosion. 


The thousands of readers in Illinois v/ho today enjoy the 
privileges of public and school libraries probably would not 
associate love of books with the lowly sunbonnet. In 1870, how- 
ever, the Sunbonnet Club of Hoopeston, Vermilion County, was 
formed to support a library association. Sunbonnets were in 
evidence at every meeting, and the secretary, treasurer, and 
corresponding secretary were all named Laura, 


The swamps and prairies around Turino, once a thriving 
Illinois mining settlement in the southwest corner of Will 
County, now abound in plant and animal wild life. Here bit- 
terns, herons, quail, killdeers, and smaller birds of the open 
country flock in great numbers to find refuge. Foxes occasion- 
ally are seen, and during winter coyotes sometimes make their 
way into the region, 

Turino, it is said, was named during boom days by a miner 
for his native city in Italy. 

Page Twent y-E i g h t 

Stories from Illinois History 


In one instance at least it was an advantage to travelers 
in pioneer Illinois to be under weight. A stage coach line 
operating in the southern part of the state in 1820 specified 
that each passenger must be considered to weigh exactly 100 
pounds - "to be paid for accordingly, and a greater or less 
weight in proportion." 


Immigration to Illinois from the South showed a decided 
increase in the period immediately following 1818, when the 
state was admitted into the Union. In that year, it lias been 
estimated, two- thirds of the people were of southern stock. 

Opposition to slavery, pressure of the plantation system 
on small farmers, who wilted under the daily struggle to make 
a bare existence, and an intense desire for social equality 
prompted many to move. During the late 1820' s, the lure of a 
seemingly inexhaustible supply of lead in Jo Daviess County, 
urged scores of Southerners to bundle their families and pos- 
sessions into wagons and start with all speed for mines in the 
Galena region. 

Perhaps the underlying explanation for most of the migra- 
tion may be found in the strong attraction that the wilderness 
exerted upon most of these people. They were generally fron- 
tier folk and stirred by a constant restlessness to seek new 

This surge of immigration from the South had decreased 
considerably, however, shortly before the Civil War. In 1850 
three-fourths of the population of Illinois is said to have 
been Northern and European stock. 

Page Twent y~N i n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


One of the early railroads in Illinois, the state owned 
Mcredosia-Springfield line, completed in 1842, operated on 
wooden rails covered with thin strips of iron held in place by 
spikes. After numerous mishaps, the locomotive was abandoned 
on a siding where it had been derailed. There it stood for 
many months, until a resourceful purchaser equipped the wheels 
with iron tires two feet wide, hoping to use the outfit as a 
sort of pleasure omnibus on the muddy country roads and 
prairies. During its first and only trip as a horseless car- 
riage, the little engine had to be helped most of the way by 
oxen. Then it was again abandoned and later broken up for 
scrap iron. 


A "type-writing machine" exhibited at Quincy, Illinois, 
in 1876, was hailed by a newspaper writer of that city as "an 
invention certain to attract great attention throughout the 
country. " 

In describing the new invention, the reporter pointed out 
its resemblance in size and general appearance to the family 
sewing machine. Writing, he explained, "is done simply by 
touching the keys, which arc compactly arranged in four rows, 
of eleven each, and may be operated by any finger of either 
hand. " 

Page Thirty 

Stories from Illinois History 


Ail unusual Christmas celebration in Mexico ninety-two years 
ago is described in a letter of a twenty-year old Illinois 
youth who fought in the Mexican War. The letter, which was 
written in German, is one of a series translated for the Jour- 
nal of the Illinois State Historical Society . 

On December 25, 1846, Adolph Engelmann of Belleville, St. 
Clair County, writing to his parents from his camp near Saltil- 
lo, said in part, 

"On this day we had marched 20 miles and a 
total of 116 miles in four days, so it is no won- 
der the men had sore feet and tired legs, worn out 
horses and mules, and that when the day drew to a 
close the Inft. Regts. were without men. During 
this whole march, which I made easily, I only put up 
my tent once. In the foot hills enroute are many 
evergreens which gave us the idea of a Christmas 
tree. I got some flour, sugar and annis seed and 
two ft. of sperm candles, a couple of young fel- 
lows in the company made some right good cookies 
and we decorated the tree. I wish you could have 
seen it." 


In the forested areas of southern and central Illinois, 
the persimmon tree abounds in wild state. Immediately after 
the first heavy frost, the fruit becomes palatable, and its 
temptingly spicy quality is a popular lure, especially for 
youths of Saline and neighboring counties, who scour the woods 
in search of the mellow "date plums*" 

Page Thirt y-0 n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Rosiclare, an Illinois village in Hardin County, has the 
distinction of being in the center of a region believed to 
contain the largest fluorspar deposits in the world. Of little 
value commercially when discovered here in 1842, fluorspar was 
at first mined only on a small scale. Later, however, it was 
found to be a valuable metallurgical flux, and for almost half 
a century several large mining companies have been extracting 
and refining the mineral in great quantities. 


"Trace Road," which passes through Olney, Richland County, 
to form its main artery, is listed among historic Illinois 
highways. Years ago, this famous road an Indian and buffalo 
trail, led from "Bear Grass," now Louisville, Kentucky, to 
Cahokia, a few miles below East St. Louis, on the Mississippi 
River. It was one of the much traveled east to west routes 
during pioneer days, and was followed by early stage and mail 


Fertile soil and climatic advantages make Franklin County 
one of the highly productive Illinois areas for vegetable 
raising. Agricultural authorities have called the soil in this 
part of the state "quick soil," for it is more than ordinarily 
responsive to fertilizers. The long growing season here also 
favors large yields. Farmers have been advised to rotate their 
crops systematically to secure the best results from these 
natural advantages. 

Page Thirt y-1 w o 

Stories from Illinois History 


According to the forty-five year diary kept by John Edward 
Young, an Illinois farmer of Menard County, New Year's Day, 
1864 dawned with the thermometer registering 23 degrees below 
zero and a "searching wind from the northwest." The entry for 
that day, which appears in the Journal of the Illinois State 
Hi storical Society , describes "the coldest day that has been in 
Illinois for 30 years." 

Young w&s suffering at the time from ague, which no doubt 
caused him to feel keenly the severity of the weather: "It 
ceased snowing about twelve o'clock last night. . , . This has 
been the most terrible storm I ever experienced. The snow 
would have been a foot deep if it had lain but it is fearfully 
drifted and great quantities of sheep, hogs end fowls of all 
kinds have perished. Some farmers has lost as high as four 
hundred sheep. It is almost impossible to leave the fire this 
morning without being frosted. The boys made out with great 
difficulty to get feeding done. I shook an hour and a half to- 
day which was rather a cool operation, considering the season." 


Unlike many towns and villages of Illinois, Rushville, the 
seat of government for Schuyler County, is without a nickname 
and as far as is known no attempt has ever been made to give 
it one. Early in the nineteenth century before the community 
became incorporated it was known as Rushton. Here in the heart 
of the rolling prairie country between the Illinois and Missis- 
sippi rivers, a "Smiles Day" is observed annually in October, 
On this occasion, residents and county neighbors promote a 
carnival and other events to foster a better understanding of 
community interests. 

Page Thirt y-T h r e e 

Stories from Illinois History 


In some sections of Illinois, events occurring on New 
Year's Day are regarded as omens for the ensuing year. In 
Champaign County, for example, there are old settlers, it is 
reported, who still hold that if one's pockets are empty on 
New Year's Day, they will be empty the rest of the year. To 
ward off poverty, pockets should be stuffed with something. 

Bad luck is believed to follow if one stumbles on the 
first day of the year, but good luck comes if a person enters 
a new home for the first time on New Year's Day. Moreover, if 
it rains on January first, the year vail be one of floods, it 
is said, and if one wants to make a. tree grow, he should wish 
it Happy New Year, 


One of the many duties of a schoolmaster in pioneer Illi- 
nois was to arrive at the school house early and build the 
fire. On one occasion an unpopular teacher of Cass County dis- 
covered that his pupils, arriving ahead of him, had started the 
fire and barred the door. 

While the youthful rebels made merry in their warm strong- 
hold, the resourceful teacher climbed to the roof and placed a 
wide boa.rd over the chimney. Within a few moments, the gasping, 
coughing youngsters ran for the open air, and the schoolmaster 
calmly entered and began his day's work. 

Page Thirt y-F our 

Stories from Illinois History 


Illinois tourists visiting New Salem State Park in pic- 
turesque Menard County marvel at the reconstruction of a whole 
town that honors one man - Abraham Lincoln. 

Here on the banks of the beautiful Sangamon River, the 
village of New Salem was established at the turn of the first 
quarter of the nineteenth century, and to this picturesque val- 
ley settlement Lincoln came in 1831. He remained for six years 
to live an eventful chapter in his early career - a storekeeper, 
postmaster, surveyor, reader of law, and volunteer in the Black 
Hawk War. At the close of this period he departed for Spring- 
field, a lawyer find a re— elected member of the state legisla- 

Restoration of New Salem has for years claimed the exten- 
sive research and devoted labor of many experts in gathering a 
remarkable collection of early furniture and utensils, and re- 
constructing buildings and grounds. Roads, rustic fences, and 
camp areas have been made ready by groups of C. C. C. workers. 
So carefully has the plan for restoration been developed that 
visitors commonly gain the impression of actually living in a 
pioneer community of a century ago. 

State routes 123 and 97 are the principal highways leading 
to this historic area, 20 miles northwest of Springfield. 


Just north of tho M&zon River bridge on U.S. 52, in Illi- 
nois near Morris, Grundy County, is one of the most remarkable 
fossil deposits in the United States. The fossils are usually 
enclosed in rounded pieces of shale and consist of impressions 
of flowers, ferns, and leaves. 

Page Thirt y-F i v e 

Stories from Illinois History 


In 1839, a mail stagecoach required twenty-two hours of 
bumping over unimproved wagon trails across 7/innebago, Boone, 
McHenry, Du Page, and Cook counties to make the 87-mile trip 
from Rockford to Chicago. 

A woman traveler who made the trip in that year wrote: 
"The stage was a commodious affair, and left Chicago at two 
o'clock in the morning. There were ten passengers. At day- 
break we reached a country tavern where v/e breakfasted on Rio 
coffee, fried fat pork, potatoes and hot saleratus biscuits, 
We crossed on the ferry at Rockford at midnight. We had to get 
out and climb the sand bank after crossing the river." 

A "fast mail" schedule of two days for the 160-mile jaunt 
from Chicago to Galena was begun the following year, with the 
Chicago to Rockford portion "run through" from dawn to dusk, or 
about 15 hours, during the summer and fall. The fare for this 
"speedy" trip was $8 to Rockford and $13 to Galena. 


When the first settlers came to Illinois they observed 
that most of the prairie land was thickly covered with a spe- 
cies of grass tall enough to hide the movements of a herd of 
cattle. This native "blues tern" has been described as billowing 
in the wind like a vast inland sea. Other grasses, of which 
Kentucky blue grass is most common, have now largely replaced 
the bluestem. However, the original native grass may still be 
found at more than one hundred points in the state - in old 
cemeteries, along railroad rights of way, and in other uncul- 
tivated spots. 

Page Thirt y-S i x 

Stories from Illinois History 


An Illinois tradition still related by some early settlers 
holds that removal of the national capital to a site in the 
southwestern part of Fayette County was once considered. 

According to the story, during the War of 1812, in which 
the Capitol and the White House were burned, authorities planned 
to transfer the scat of national government from Washington to 
some inland point. The Illinois site suggested, it is said, was 
named Sharon. Remoteness from the Mississippi River, which made 
it reasonably secure from invasion by water, and strong fortifi- 
cations near Kaskaskia, were thought to be in its favor. 

No record has as yet been found to show that the plan ever 
came to official notice* 


Because of the scarcity of manufactured goods in early 
Illinois, pioneer women seldom wore elaborate millinery. Ac- 
cording to records relating to pioneer social customs, a folded 
kerchief worn peasant style was the usual feminine headgear in 
the 1820' s. 

Only well-to-do women of that day could afford bonnets, 
and these were almost always made of straw. One hat ordinarily 
lasted for the entire year, but the trimming was sometimes 
changed to suit the season. 

Page Thirt y-S even 



Stories from Illinois History 


A tan vat was almost a necessity on a well equipped farm 
in pioneer Illinois, as shoes, harness, and many articles of 
clothing, were frequently made at home from hides of animals. 
These primitive vats were usually pits dug in the ground and 
lined with oak planks. 

Before being tanned, a hide was first scraped well and 
cleaned of hair. Then it was placed in the vat, which had been 
partially filled with water containing a quantity of wood, bark, 
or leaves bearing tannin. There it remained until it was thor- 
oughly tanned and seasoned. After being dried and softened, it 
was fashioned into jackets, trousers, shoes, belts, and harness 
by members of the household. 


One reason advanced by historians for the settlement of 
Illinois at a later date than Tennessee and Kentucky is that 
many farmers once believed land bearing no trees was not fer- 
tile. The prairies were considered almost worthless for 
settlement by pioneers from the forested areas of the South and 
the East. 

"A great part of the territory is miserably poor," Monroe 
is quoted as having written to Jefferson, "especially that near 
Lakes Michigan and Erie, and that upon the Mississippi and the 
Illinois consists of extensive plans which have not had from 
appearances, and will not have, a single bush on them for ages. 
The districts, therefore, within which those fall will never 
contain a sufficient number of inhabitants to entitle them to 
membership in the Confederacy." 

Page Thirt y-E i g h t 

Stories from Illinois History 


Early one winter, about 250 years ago, the French explorer, 
La Salle and his faithful lieutenant, Henry de Tonti, with a 
small group of followers, camped in an Indian village on the 
bluffs of the Illinois River opposite the site of the present 
city of Peoria, Their journoy from Canada down the St. Lawrence 
River and through the Great Lakes had been arduous, yet they be- 
gan almost at once to build a fort, which historians believe was 
the first constructed by Frenchmen in the West* It was named 
Fort Crevecouer - the fort of the "broken heart" - and a few 
months later the garrison mutinied and burned it. 

For more than two centuries the exact location of the 
stronghold was uncertain, but after an extensive research the 
present site of Fort Crevecouer Memorial State Park was selected 
by the Illinois State Historical Society as the most probable 
location. Here ?. ten foot granite shaft has been erected on the 
highest point in the seventeen and a half acre park. 

The rich historical background of Fort Crevecouer and a 
fine view of the broad river, meandering southv/ard, to the 
Mississippi through scenic sections of Peoria and Tazewell coun- 
ties, lure thousands of visitors every year to the park, many of 
whom reach it by way of US 24 or State 100. 


One of the provisions in Illinois for the protection of 
wild fowl is a rookery on a farm near Paw Paw, in Lee County, 
Here in a larch grove a quarter of a mile long and 300 yards 
wide, hundreds of black-crowned night herons make their homes. 
The noisy birds fly daily 25 miles to swamps bordering the Illi- 
nois and Fox rivers for food. 

Page Thirt y-N i n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Traveling artists in pioneer Illinois who made "free hand" 
portraits and sketched farm homes, competed in the 1850' s with 
daguerreotype artists., who carried their equipment in large 
cars mounted on low wheels. In the Garrollton Gazette for June 
3, 1854, a notice informed the public that the Frailey daguerre- 
otype car would be in White Hall within a few days. The car was 
described as being "fully equipped with a sky-light room," and 
the artist was said to be very capable. 

Although permanent studios succeeded this early type of 
photographic service, rolling studios may occasionally be seen 
today both in town and country. 


On one occasion at least during the early days of settle- 
ment in Illinois, pioneer hospitality provided a night's 
lodging for nineteen persons in a log cabin of 12 by 16 feet. 

With the assurance, "There is always room in this country J" 
a group of travelers from Washington to the Mississippi joined 
a number of other guests at the home of a settler near Utica, 
Fulton County. After a supper of bacon, corn bread, honey, and 
coffee, which was ready soon a.fter the unexpected additional 
travelers from the capital arrived, the fow chairs and tables 
were cleared away and the floor covered with buffalo robes and 
blankets for sleeping. Conditions were described as crowded, in 
the reminiscences of one of the guests. 

Page Forty 

Stories from Illinois History 


It is to John Wood, governor of Illinois in 1860, that the 
people of Adams County are indebted for many of the fine trees 
that shade the lawns of Quincy and the surrounding countryside. 
He gave Quincy its first park and promoted the planting of trees 
along its streets. 

In the spring of 1820, while living in Pike County, Wood 
made a journey on foot to St. Louis, more than a hundred miles 
away, said brought home a pint of apple 6eeds to plant. In the 
fall of the seme year, he made another foot journey to a distant 
orchard on the Mississippi and procured a quantity of apple 
seeds from a cider mill. 

In 1827, the first apples grown in this section were gath- 
ered from his trees, and it is also believed that the first ■ 
chestnut trees in the region were planted by Wood in 1830. 


When in 1832, a law was passed giving pensions to veterans 
of the American Revolution, ex-soldiers who had moved to Illi- 
nois began at once to make application for benefits provided in 
the congressional act. If legal discharges from the army had 
been lost or never received, proof of military service could 
be established by a recital of incidents that agreed with in- 
formation sent by government officials to the various county 
boards. Men who had served under Washington told county com- 
missioners about the battles of Brandywine, Germantov/n, Mon- 
mouth, and other engagements. 

How well Montgomery County veterans painted word pictures 
of their war days vrhen they assembled in the log cabin court- 
house at Hillsboro is revealed in records of the time. After 
each story heard by the attentive county commissioners is the 
following notation: "And the said court do hereby declare their 
opinion that this man was a revolutionary soldier and served as 
he states." 

Page Fort y-0 n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


If a proposal made by Thomas Jefferson in 1784 had gone in- 
to effect, residents of Illinois might find themselves living in 
a state with the same latitude and longitude but with a name 
that would delight prize-winning spellers. 

According to historical accounts Jefferson proposed to 
divide the then n^wly acquired Northwest Territory into seven 
states under a temporary government. The names he selected for 
them were Assenisipia, Chersonesus, Metropotamia, Michigania, 
Polisipia, Polypotamia, and Sylvania. It has not been learned 
which one of these names was reserved for the area that became 


Bigsby Cave and Gorge, ner.r Ford's Ferry, is not only an 
Illinois scenic spot, but also the center of many incidents and 
legends, concerning early settlement of Hardin County. The cave 
and gorge were ncmed for Dr. Anna Bigsby, pioneer physician and 
teacher, v/ho established the first school on Rock Creek, and in 
attending the sick throughout the section earned for herself the 
title, Heroine of the Ozarks, 

Local tradition holds that "Dr. Anna," as she was familiar- 
ly called, was once captured by outlaws and escaped by a peril- 
ous leap from a bluff near the cave. Some people report seeing 
a nebulous light floating over Bigsby Gorge and refer to it as 
"Dr. Anna Light." They explain that it is the spirit of the 
heroine guarding a sum of her money supposed to be hidden 
in the cave. 

Page Fort y-T w o 

Stories from Illinois History 


Before railroads had developed snow plows so powerful that 
they could bo seldom blocked, Illinois travelers were sometimes 
hard pressed when trains were marooned during storms that swept 
over Illinois prairies. The writer of a letter of 1877 de- 
scribes a heavy snowfall that had occurred some years before. 
A train, according to the account, was blocked for days "in one 
of the boundless prairies of Illinois, and the passengers, 
nearly all of them business men and members of the state legis- 
lature, were reduced to such an extremity" that they had to 
burn the furniture of the coaches in order to prevent death by 


When a number of old settlers of Illinois met in 1881, a 
pioneer of Iroquois County described the season of 1844 a9 
"the wettest he ever knew." A newspaper report of the meeting 
gives an account of difficulties he experienced during the wet 

Wheat was very scarce^ the pioneer recalled, and grain 
could not be taken to the grist mill because roads were im- 
passable. He ground six bushels of wheat in a coffee mill, 
and his wife bolted the meal through a coarse cloth. Bread 
made from this flour was the principal diet of the family for 
about five months. 

Page Fort y-T h r e o 

Stories from Illinois History 


A quarter of a century before Illinois began to develop its 
petroleum resources, residents of the state pondered with inter- 
est a warning given by a man who had done some investigating in 
the oil fields of Pennsylvania, 

In 1879, an Illinois newspaper reported that in the opin- 
ion of the visitor, "the Government ought to interfere at once, 
and put a stop to further pumping and boring for oil. He is 
quite certain the oil is drawn through these wells from the 
bearing of the earth's axis, and that the earth will cease to 
turn when the lubrication ceases," 


As early as the 1830' s, some wild animals once common in 
Illinois were forsaking its woods and prairies. A pioneer 
writing of the years of 1837 and 1838 observed that buffalo and 
elk were no longer seen and that panthers and wild cats were 
only occasionally reported. Hunters, however, could find 
plenty of deer, raccoons, and wolves. 

Long before any one was around to fear these or other 
animals, giant creatures, now extinct, roamed over the same 
land. In 1902, a Scott County farmor, while draining a swamp 
near Deer Lick Spring, about five miles from Winchester, found 
skeletal remains of mastodon, a great buffalo, and an early 
species of horse. 

Pago Fort y~F our 

Stories from Illinois History 


How a company of Illinois soldiers during the Civil War 
was outfitted with uniforms in record time is related in an 
article on General Stephen A. Hurlbut in the Journal of the 
Illinois State Historical Society of July 1935. On Monday, May 
6, 1861, Hurlbut, then a captain, was ordered from Belvidere to 
Freeport with his company of 115 soldiers* 

On the following day, at a meeting of Belvidere citizens, 
it was decided to present the company with " a uniform military 
dress." That night, a committee went to Chicago to purchase the 
materials, which were received Wednesday evening. On Thursday 
and Friday all of the tailors and most of the women of the com- 
munity gathered in the Union Hall to cut and sew. 

By Saturday morning the garments were finished, and the 
company set out for Freeport dressed in well tailored uniforms. 


The Kaskaskia home of Shadrach Bond, first territorial 
delegate in Congress from Illinois and first governor of the 
state, was one of the fine mansions of early Illinois. When the 
residence was demolished in 18S2, a newspaper printed a "brief 
description of it. The entire framework, except joists and 
rafters*, was of solid black walnut, a wood once plentiful in the 
Middle West but now so scarce that it is used chiefly in fine 
cabinet work. 

Bricks made especially for Bond in Pittsburg wore almost 
twice as large as those ordinarily found. The house originally 
stood on a farm of 340 acres. However, by 1892 a change in the 
course of the Mississippi had reduced the tract to 15 acres. 

Page Fort y-F i v e 

Stories fron Illinois History 


In pioneer Illinois, when present day facilities for keep- 
ing neat fresh were unknown, a single sheep would be butchered 
and divided with neighbors so that it could be used quickly. 
The fleece was carded, spun, and finally woven by the housewife 
on a hand loom, and colored by home-made vegetable dyes# 

Since candles were commonly used for illumination during 
pioneer tines, tallow from sheep was an important item in making 
them. Most pioneer households had tin molds for this purpose^ 
Much care had to be taken in pouring the tallow so as to avoid 
air bubbles* 


Long before Illinois began "to pull itself out of the mud" 
by a statewide good roads program, farmers deplored the loss in 
land values because of unimproved highways, A writer in the 
Geneseo Republic for May 23, 1890 declared that the loss amount- 
ed to $160,000,000 and that extra hauling cost $1,346,000 an- 

"On Illinois roads," it is pointed out "a full load for a 
two-horse team can be carried for three months of the year, 
two- thirds of a load for three months, and hr.lf a load for six," 
The writer argued that if the state "spent $250,000,000 on good 
roads the total interest on this sum would still leave enough of 
the sum spent in hauling to build a new state capitol every 
year, to say nothing of the nervous wear and tear and the pris- 
matic profanity induced by country roads when the frost is com- 
ing out," 

Page Fort y-S i x 

Stories fron Illinois History 


Early residents in some sections of Illinois generally re- 
garded new amusements with suspicion. In the late 1870' s when 
the older residents of Oak Park, for example held a party in 
which the "festive waltz and other new-fangled dances" were 
ruled out, the event was described as a "walk-around." 

Approved pastimes for boys in a part of western Illinois 
included principally hunting and the tino-honored game of horse- 
shoes. The drama seems to have been frowned on, Reading was 
encouraged for the most part only within the bounds of school 
and college libraries. 

The "mum sociable," an invention of the 1870' s was devised 
to provide money for benevolent enterprises by fining players 
who spoke during the period of the "grme." One resident who 
recalls the "mum sociable," sp.ys that he did not find it enter- 


Easter parades in the pioneer yoars of Illinois were none 
the less colorful because the wearing apparel came from the 
family loom. 

Correctly attired young women of Mercer County are said to 
have looked very gay in home-dyed linsey-woolsey dresses with 
matching sunbonnets, and the young men proudly wore tow, or 
coarse flax, trousers, v/hite shirt, high stiff collar, and 
home-made straw hat. 

Page Fort y-S even 

Stories from Illinois History 


Illinois pioneers would have been amused had they known 
that coffee would some day be considered as much an American 
drink as tea is English* When introduced to more settled com- 
munities, early settlers were somewhat scornful of such bever- 
ages as tea and coffee. Some "old timers" seem to have re- 
garded cups and saucers, too, merely as luxuries. 


Visitors to Giant City State Park, in southern Illinois' 
Egypt," have compared it to coastal regions along the Gulf of 
Mexico, principally because trees and birds common to the gulf 
area abound there. Tulip, sweet gum, tupelo, and winged elm 
trees, almost unknown above the Mason-Dixon line, are found in 
considerable numbers. Species of birds common only in warmer 
climates, as well as southern types of squirrels and rabbits, 
thrive in this region. Added natural beauty is provided by a 
spur of the Ozark Mountains that extends into the perk area. 


When the bell rang from the miners' district school house 
at East Galena for the first session in 1897, there was no rush 
of noisy children to take their seats before the teacher. A 
little fellow of six years was the solitary pupil* He seems to 
have been the only child of legal school age in the district. 
Residents had decided to maintain a school there in order to 
avoid the higher taxes of neighboring areas. 

Page Fort y-E i g h t 

Stories from Illinois History 


About a century ago, one Illinois county showed delinquent 
taxes for one year of only $5.28. Evidently this amount was 
considered excessive as the financial record of Brown County 
for 1840 was described as being only a "fair showing." 


Even the teachers carved their names on the center pole of 
the old octagonal Illinois school house at Mount Carmel, The 
pole was in the center of the eight-sided, one-room school 
building, and, in addition to its use as an informal register 
of teachsrs and pupils, served as a support to the roof. Many 
of the persons whose names were carved on the pole became prom- 
inent in Illinois affairs. Records have been found of several 
other octagonal school houses built in Wabash County during 
the early days. 


Lads and lassies of Illinois who have younger brothers 
and sisters mr.y well look to their laurels in view of the man- 
ner in which one Marion County "little" sister demonstrated 
her initiative many years ago. An 1885 news item from Ccn- 
tralia told how a would-be bride of Salem decided at the last 
moment not to m"rry, after her suitor had already procured a 
marriage license. The girl's younger sister offered herself, 
however, and was accepted. A change of name was made on the 
certificate and the couple married. 

Page Fort y-N i n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Iroquois, in the county of the same name, is the lone sur- 
vivor of three Illinois villages which once occupied both banks 
of the Iroquois River at the site of the present village. 

Although sparsely inhabited, they were platted as were 
several other nearby towns during the 1830' s, in the hope that 
the county seat would be located at one of them. Montgomery, 
vdaich achieved that ambition and became the first seat of Iro- 
quois County, was on the south bank of the Iroquois River, on 
both sides of the historic Hubbard Trail. Iroquois was on the 
same side of the river, to the west of Montgomery. Concord, 
which is the present village of Iroquois, was on the north bank 
of the river, also on both sides of the Hubbard Trail, now Main 
Street in present-day Iroquois. 

For a period all three villages were known as "Bunkum," 
and mail so addressed was delivered to the villages. However, 
the official post office name was Concord. In 1871 the "Big 
Four" railroad built a station in Concord and on its maps named 
the place Iroquois. In 1875 Concord was officially incorporated 
as Iroquois, and "Old Iroquois" and Montgomery gradually become 
"ghost towns." 


In 1894, Illinois residents were amazed to learn of the 
damage that resulted when a "double-header" train and a cow 
collided near Carlinville, A news dispatch stated that "en- 
gines and cars were thrown from the track and piled into a mass 
of iron and kindling wood." Loss was estimated to be $12,000. 

Page Fifty 

Stories from Illinois Histo 

r y 


During the unusually severe winter of 1837, wild animals 
on the Illinois prairies were driven to desperation for ade- 
quate supplies of water. One day while cutting timber near a 
lake that was frozen over,a Macoupin County pioneer noticed a 
buck struggling toward a hole that he had cut in the ice to en- 
able his horse to drink. Seizing an axe he advanced toward the 
animal and struck. The axe handle hit the buck's antlers and 

Then followed an exhausting battle as the pioneer held 
firmly to the antlers to avoid being gored. At length he broke 
away and found refuge in a tree, where he remained until the 
buck left. 


Although thousands of school teachers were among the quar- 
ter million men Illinois contributed to the national defense 
during the Civil War, great strides in education were made from 

Unprecedented sums of money were alio ted by the state for 
educational purposes during the war years, according to an Il- 
linois newspaper article of 1867. In the course of a two-year 
period 1,122 school buildings were constructed. Much of the 
cost was met by voluntary taxation. 

Page Fift y-0 n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


In Illinois, statistics refute the popular opinion that 
the home-making, home-loving girls of the past are dwindling in 
number. Vocational home-making classes attracted only 311 
students in twenty schools when the work was offered under 
State supervision in 1918. At present, however, 21,000 persons 
in 281 schools are enrolled. Nearly a quarter of a million 
students have been trained since the classes started* 


Not one flood, but three swept along Illinois waters 
courses to swell the recent Ohio River flood. U. S, Geological 
Survey engineers have pointed out that although streams in 
Illinois did not rise as far as they sometimes have, perhaps 
more water was discharged from them than in any other flood of 
which there is record. 

The first flood rose on January 16, the next on January 
22, and the third on February 1, 1937. They kept Illinois 
streams swollen while the crest of the main flood was passing 
down the Ohio River. 


Fashion dictates of the gay nineties received an unlooked 
for jolt in 1894 when the manager of e.n Illinois telephone com- 
pany objected to the long skirts of the switchboard operators. 
He declared that dust stirred up by them interfered with clear 
connections by clogging terminals. Operators were ordered to 
wear dresses that cleared the floor by three inches. Indigna- 
tion and copious tears followed, but the order stood. 

Page Fift y . Two 

Stories from Illinois History 


A cricket match seems to have been the first athletic con- 
test held within the state of Illinois. A record of this event 
has been found in Wood's English Prairie , a part of " Early West- 
ern Travels ." edited by Thwr.ites: "On the second of October 
(1820) there was a game of cricket played at Wanborough by the 
young men of the settlement; this they called keeping Catherine 
Hill fair, many of the players being from the neighborhood of 
Godalming and Guilford, (England.)" 

Wanborough was an early settlement, vrhich is thought to 
have been not far from Shawneetown, and Catherine Hill fair is 
well known to all persons acquainted with the vicinity of Guil- 
ford, Surrey. 


A visit by the Prince of Wales, later Edward Vll, eldest 
son of Queen Victoria, to Livingston County in 1860 was noted 
in connection with the visit of the English royal family to 
Canada and the United States in 1939* 

The nineteen-year-old Prince, en route from Chicago to 
St. Louis, stopped in Dwight Township for a few days hunting, 
staying at Renfrew Lodge, where special furniture had been in- 
stalled. He was the guest of honor at a reception attended by 
the townspeople on the evening of his arrival. The following 
day he and his retinue worshipped at the Presbyterian Church, 
to which, much pleased with the services, the Prince made a 
donation. During one excursion, the Prince oJid his party bagged 
over 200 quail and wild chickens. 

Page Fift y-T h r e e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Church services that began at 10 o'clock in the morning and 
lasted until 5 o'clock in the evening were offered to the early- 
settlers of many Illinois communities. Preaching in the log 
cabins was open to members of all denominations, and ministers 
often joined to lead the day-long meetings. 

An account of such a service, held in Montgomery County in 
1822, states that the preacher, described as "big ?Jid burly," 
read the first two lines of a hymn and then led the worshippers 
in singing them. After the sermon and a second hymn, it was 
announced that after a short recess, another pastor would con- 
tinue the service. During the noon recess the children rushed 
to the fireplace with sticks or pieces of clapboard and rolled 
out the eggs they had brought for lunch. 

In the meantime, the men went to the water bucket which 
stood in the back corner of the room. The procedure there was 
described as "being rather slow as only one dipper was provided. 


An account of an Illinois lad who suffered from "turtle- 
phobia," contracted from a turtle bite, appeared in on early 
Bureau County new9 dispatch. The symptoms described by the 
early report sound like the common ones of rabies, and the 
editor seems to have coined his own term when he called the 
ailment "turtlephobia. " 

Page Fift y-F our 

Stories from Illinois History 


When four acres of land were condemned in 1878 for an addi- 
tion to the State House grounds at Springfield, the owners of 
the property refused to accept the treasury warrants of compen- 
sation for the land, stating that they did not wish to sell. 
According to the Springfield Register of June 1878, the Honor- 
able Ninian W, Edwards prepared a paper " as long as the Revised 
Statues of 1874, as complicated as the Dog law, and as myste- 
rious as the State Revenue law," explaining the matter to "any- 
body who wants to argue with him about it." It seems that the 
warrants could not be drawn until the attorney general filed an 
opinion that they were "proper and legal." 


Of the 102 counties in Illinois, boundary lines of Pulaski 
are the most irregular because of the circuitous courses of the 
Ohio and Cache rivers. One mile north of the southernmost tip, 
it is two miles wide. Three miles north it is eight miles wide; 
five miles north it is nine miles; eleven miles north it reaches 
its greatest width of seventeen miles; fifteen miles north it 
has narrowed to fifteen miles and at the northern boundary there 
are only ten miles between the east and west county lines. 

The longest distance between the northern and southern 
boundaries is eighteen miles and the shortest distance is on the 
eastern boundary where the Ohio River forms an arc. At this 
point Pulaski County is only five miles long. 

Page Fift y-F i v e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Washington Irving figures as an Illinois landowner in a 
newspaper item printed by the Q uincy Herald , July 25, 1893. 

"It is not generally knovm," the writer states, "that Wash- 
ington Irving, author of Rip Van Winkle and other charming bits 
of fiction, is on the Adams County records as having at one time 
been a real estate owner in Quincy, It is a fact, nevertheless, 
that the title of the property on which Koening .-\nd Luhr's 
carriage factory stands at one time belonged to him." 

The account points out that the property was purchased by 
the famous author for a faithful employee, to whom it was later 


An account of a dowry of $150 in gold and a quarter section 
of land provided a century ago by an Indian chief in Illinois 
for his 150-pound daughter, enlivens a chapter in the biographi- 
cal record of a pioneer in the southern part of the state. 

One stipulation that had to be reckoned with by aspirants 
for the girl's affections blocked all applicants. It seems 
that the warrior had somehow been impressed by the idea of edu- 
cation, and so he included in his terms the provision that the 
young man who sought to win the girl and the dowry must be edu- 

According to the account, not one of the applicants could 
meet the intellectual qualification. No mention is made of the 
kind of intelligence test that was given. 

Page Fifty- Six 

Stories from Illinois History 


In 1877, an innovation to constabulary duties in an Illi- 
nois city annoyed light sleepers and probably brought rejoicing 
to night-time marauders. Watchmen in the thriving city of Cairo 
were then required to strike three resounding blows on lamp 
posts at intervals of ten minutes during the hours of darkness. 

The Cairo Bulletin was not impressed by the order as fur- 
thering the interests of public safety, for it observed that 
thieves would be aware of policemen's whereabouts, and 
"arrests will be less frequent." 

Apprehensive residents, it is said, found two questionable 
advantages in the custom. It gave them assurance that officers 
wore active in their pursuit of law and order, and it kept the 
citizenry in a state of semi-wakefulness. In time, the prac- 
tice was discontinued. 


Sheep raisers in Illinois in the early days were greatly 
troubled by wolves, and numerous contemporary references tell 
of the destruction once caused by them. In January, 1871, a 
news dispatch from Greene County stated that large numbers of 
wolves had been killing sheep in the western part of the county 
and that "they must either be exterminated or sheep raising be 
abandoned in that section." In February of the following year 
an Illinois newspaper reported: "Wolves are making themselves 
troublesome in Rodner and Kickapoo townships, Peoria County, 
carrying away sheep, shoats, etc." Their howling could bo 
heard as far distant as Peoria. 

Page Fift y-S even 

Stories from Illinois History 


In 1872 an Illinois county prosecutor may have enjoyed the 
honor that went with his profession, but he could not pur- 
chased many luxurios from his fees. In that year the state 
legislature passed a law providing that ovory county in the 
State must elect its own prosecuting attorney. The salary was 
to be $400 a year. 


Valuable mineral lands in Illinois were once practically 
given away by the government. An item in the Chicago Daily 
Journal in 1847 stated that by proclamation of the President a 
sale of government lands would be hold at Dixon the following 
April. The writer stated that the minimum price of $1.25 an 
acre was all that land in the famous Galena lead district would 


Government census takers in 1880 counted only 31,750 citi- 
zens of Peoria — a number felt by city authorities to be in- 
accurate. According to a newspaper item the citizens appointed 
special canvassers, who made a recount and found 3,436 addi- 
tional members of the community. 

Pago Fifty-Eight 

Stories from Illinois History 


An early Illinois physician's interest in the medicinal 
qualities of herbs is believed to have led directly to the first 
serious effort to make a comprehensive catalogue of the State's 
plants. In 1833, Dr. Samuel B. Mead of Augusta, Hancock County, 
began to collect specimens for his herbarium, which he hoped 
would eventually include examples of every plant growing within 
the state. He eagerly sought correspondents to send him good 
specimens, in return for which he agreed to give other plants 
growing in the vicinity of his home. 

Under the title, "Catalogue of Plants, growing spontaneously 
in the State of Illinois, the principal part near Augusta, Han- 
cock County," the Prairie Farmer in its issues from January to 
April, 1846, printed Mead' s findings. The first part of the re- 
cord included detailed explanations of the abbreviations and 
typographical devices used throughout the catalogue. 

In 1880, Knox College at Gr.lesburg secured Dr. Mead's col- 
lections and writings, which he had prepared during nearly fifty 
years of study. They are considered to be invaluable records 
of plant life in the early period of the state's history. 


Probably as a result of the Chicago fire of 1871 a law was 
passed in Bloomington in January, 1872, regulating the sale of 
kerosene. An account of the time states that the law prohib- 
ited merchants within the city limits from keeping more than 
three barrels of oil on hand at one time. Another provision of 
the ordinance forbade the drawing of oil by any light other than 

Page Fift y-N i n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


In 1885 — About ten years after the first successful use of 
the telephone — a "hook-up" of telephone lines in northern Illi- 
nois made "the common air blossom with music," According to a 
contemporary account of the event in the Momence Reporter , the 
Momence Cornet Band went to the local telephone office and 
played several selections before an open switchboard connected 
with neighboring cities and villages. 

Nine stations, including Kankakee, Grant Park, St, Anne, 
Manteno, Joliet, Morris, Ottawa, and Chicago, listened in to 
the concert, and the "broadcast" was heard over several private 
wires, "When all of these connections were made," said the Re- 
porter , "it was interesting to listen to the different remarks 
coming from all the various points which could be distinctly 
heard. There was a complete pandemonium of voices and all 
mingled together to that extent that it was impossible for any 
to talk to anyone else in particular. Many got impatient, and 
such remarks as 'keep still, can't you, keep still?' etc., were 


Although cross-country travel in ox-drawn carts or Cone- 
Btoga wagons was groatly lessened by the expansion of railroads 
from 1850 to 1870, for a number of years the covered wagon con- 
tinued to be used as a means of transportation. By the 1890' s 
however, ox-drawn conveyances were enough of a rarity in Illi- 
nois to occasion newspaper comment, A dispatch from Olney, 
Richmond County, dated May 15, 1891, stated, "An ox team passed 
through Olney Friday, bound for Kansas, At the rate they were 
traveling they will arrive at their destination about Christ- 
mas, " 

Page Sixty 

Stories from Illinois History 


Half a century ago, unemployed citizens of Illinois were 
told by a newspaper writer what to do with their leisure time. 
The following advice appeared in the Marion Leader of July 10, 

"A good way for laborers and others to make dull times 
duller is to sit around and cuss and complain about the way 
things are going. Instead of sitting and waiting for some- 
thing to turn up, all hands should take hold and turn something 
up, July is generally a dull month so far as employment in 
town is concerned, made so because all enterprise is devoted to 
harvesting and attending the crops. It is a good time for the 
working man to spend a few days improving his home and visiting 
his family. " 


Trains moving within city limits at six to twelve miles 
an hour, or crossing a public square, gave concern to Illinois 
residents of sixty years ago. A newspaper item tells of a suit 
filed by the city of Joliet in 1872 to restrain a railroad 
"from running their locomotives and cars across the public 

Another journal reports a bill introduced by a state leg- 
islator to permit railroads to increase their speed from six 
to twelve miles an hour through cities and towns. Commenting 
on this proposal, a writer of the time wondered if the repre- 
sentative wished "to destroy his constituents." 

Page Sixt y-0 n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


The historic region bordering the Mississippi River on the 
Illinois side from the mouth of the Missouri to the former out- 
let of the Kaskaskia was known to the early settlers as "The 
American Bottom*" According to the Centennial History of Illi- 
nois , this strip of lowland was the home of a tribe of mound 
builders who, it is believed, represented the highest cultural 
development among the aboriginal inhabitants of Illinois. 

Charmed by the almost tropical beauty and fertility of the 
place, the French established there in the early 1700' s the 
first permanent white settlements in the old Illinois country, 
notably Cahokia and Kaskaskia, chief centers of influence in 
Illinois for more than 100 years. One writer called it "the 
Elysium of America," and described it as being unexcelled for 
crop production. 


A law of Illinois passed in 1871 required that when addi- 
tional land was secured for capitol grounds, a bond must be 
signed by 200 responsible persons, guaranteeing that the ground 
was free of cost to the state. As a result, a somewhat awkward 
situation arose in 1877 at Springfield when it was found that of 
signers of such a bond eighteen were dead, forty-eight were 
bankrupt, and seventeen had moved from the state. 

Page Sixt y-T w o 

Stories from Illinois History 


One of the very early farmers of Illinois, George Flower, 
of Edwards County, became widely known as a successful grower 
of sheep. It is related that he "brought with him from England 
for breeding purposes "six of the finest animals of the wool 
growing species ever imported into this country." 

In 1841, he passed on valuable information to other sheep 
men by means of a pamphlet. 

Since wolves were a great scourge to shepherds in those 
early days, Flower emphasized the necessity of constant vigil- 
lance against their attacks and advocated the building of 
wolf-proof fences. "They are very sly animals," he wrote, 
"and I have known one, protected by a hazel bush, to enter a 
flock while the keeper was with it, and kill quite a number of 
sheep before he could be got out. The flock frequently does 
not seem to apprehend the wolf, or flee from him; and he will 
do his work without causing any commotion among them." 


Perhaps the strangest cause for the delay of a train in 
the history of Illinois railroading occurred in 1881 when 
hundreds, if not thousands, of snoJces blocked the track. Ac- 
cording to a newspaper account of the time, the roadbed be- 
tween Sterling and Rock Island literally swarmed with the 
reptiles after a flood in the adjacent lowlands. The engineer 
thought that the locomotive could clear them from the right 
of way, but he quickly found out that too many snakes were as 
effective as a landslide in blocking a train. 

Page S i x t y-T h r e o 

Stories from Illinois History 


On a summer day in 1878 an argument arose in a small Illi- 
nois community over the source of the Illinois River, "which 
sweeps past our town," According to historical research work- 
ers, the editor of the Lac on Home Journal , who was present 
at the discussion, took pains to look up the matter and 
published his findings, 

"The Illinois," he wrote, "is formed by the union of the 
Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers at Dresden. . ■ . The Des 
Plaines, or Aux Plains, the Indian appellation of which is 
She-shik-mah-o, rises in southwest Wisconsin, and is about 
150 miles long. The Kankakee rises in northern Indiana. ... 
At Ottawa the Fox empties into the Illinois, which further 
along receives the Vermilion, the Spoon, Mackinaw and the 

Having thus settled the question, the editor then supplied 
his readers with some miscellaneous geographical and historical 
data about the Illinois, explaining that although most of his 
readers knew these facts, "others will be glad to have their 
memory refreshed." 


When it came time in the development of Illinois to name 
the county seat of Warren County, three names were proposed. 
One early settler, who had migrated from Monmouth, New Jersey, 
suggested Monmouth, another recommended Isabella, and a third 
wanted Kosciusko, The decision narrowed down to Kosciusko and 
Monmouth, Then, the old settlers decided that Kosciusko was 
too hard to pronounce and spell, and so the place was nrjned 

Page Sixt y~F our 

Stories from Illinois History 


In 1818, Thomas Hulme, a friend of William Cobbett, the 
famous British political writer and editor, traveled through 
the "western countries" of the United States as far as Morris 
Birkbeck's settlement at English Prairie in Illinois, near 
the junction of the Wabash and Little V?aba6h rivers, A de- 
scription of Birkbeck's settlement is given in Hulme 's Journal . 
a document considered by many students of history to be one of 
the exceptionally lively and valuable memoirs of pioneer days. 

Hulme observed the "lofty woods" surrounding the prairies, 
and said that they "put me in mind of immense noblemen's parks 
in England." Birkbeck had extensive holdings, which he hoped 
to "re-sell again in lots to any of his friends, they taking 
as much of it and wherever they choose (provided it be no more 
than they can cultivate) ." 

He found Birkbeck living in a cabin, "the building of 
which cost only twenty dollars," but the famous pioneer in- 
tended to build a large house and to keep the cabin for a mere 
"appurtenance." Hulme liked "this plan of keeping the old log 
house; it reminds the grand children and their children's of 
what their ancestor has done for their sake." Hulme further 
noted that Birkbeck had made a good garden, and that he had 
to journey to New Harmony, Indiana, twenty miles away, for 


An attempt to naturalize exotic wild foul in Illinois was 
made in 1891 by a resident of Macomb, McDonough County. Five 
brace of India black partridge were secured through the Ameri- 
can consul at Calcutta and imported to Illinois. The birds 
were said to be the first of the Indian varieties of partridge 
to be brought to America. 

Page Sixt y-F i v e 

Stories from Illinois History 


A tornado that struck northeastern Illinois the night of 
October 29, 1875, played some exceptionally strange and terri- 
fying tricks in and around Monence, in Kankakee County, An 
account in the Monence Reporter tells of a farmer who was driv- 
ing in a lumber wagon when the storm struck. The wagon box, 
with the farmer in it, sailed over a fence and landed in a 
field upside down. After the farmer crawled out and found his 
horses by the glare of lightning flashes, he was amazed to see 
that the collar on one of them had been turned completely 
around by the wind. Presumably the rest of the harness had 
been torn off by the blast. 


In the 1890s , humanitarians in Illinois were demanding 
that an end be put to physical punishment of school children 
in the state. The Bast St. Louis Journal of April 29, 1891, 
stated editorially, "Corporal punishment in the public schools 
ought to be abolished, and at once. The Journal has no par- 
ticular reference to East St. Louis, but to the schools in gen- 
eral throughout the state* The lash is a relic of barbarism." 


"With such a shock as to jar the ground like an earth- 
quake on a small scale, and with a noise like heavy thunder," 
a meteorite was described as striking Illinois near Sycamore, 
in De Kalb County, in the winter of 1861. 

According to the Belvidere Standard the object was be- 
lieved to weigh about a ton and to contain considerable iron. 
The earth for some distance around was "strewn with a sub- 
stance like ashes or cinders," Several persons living 18 or 
20 miles away heard the Impact. 

Page Sixt y-S i x 

Stories from Illinois History 


In a tract of Illinois land comprising about two fifths 
of Edgar County, a remarkably large number of different kinds 
of trees have long been thriving. Here, it is reported, may 
be seen all varieties of ash, beech, black haw, cottonwood, red 
and white elm, hickory, honey locust, mulberry, poplar, sas- 
safras, sycamore, and walnut that £.row in this region. Less 
numerous are birch, crab apple, dogwood, ironwood, paw paw, 
and wild plum. 

Not content with this contribution on a relatively small 
area of land, nature also provides, where the woodlands meet 
the prairie, an abundance of blackberries, dewberries, and 

Edgar County is situated on the eastern border of the 
state, approximately 160 miles south of Chicago. It is about 
27 miles in length and 24 miles in width. The surface of the 
county varies from flat to rolling, but in the southeastern 
part along Sugar Creek and its branches, in the timbered sec- 
tion, it is rather hilly. 


Although some of even the larger communities of Illinois 
retained wooden sidewalks well into the present century, 
Bloomington was proudly planning to substitute other material 
for them as early as 1880. According to research workers 
many of Bloomington residents were having brick walks laid in 
front of their houses, and it was predicted that in a few years 
no wooden sidewalks would remain. 

Page Sixty -Seven 

Stories from Illinois History 



Stories from Illinois History 


On May 17, 1896, an unusual storm broke over a portion of 
Macon County. The Quincy Daily Journal, reporting the phenome- 
non, described it thus: "During a heavy hail and rain storm 
yesterday hundreds of small fish fell in the streets from the 
clouds. They are small perch, from one-half to three inches 
long. " 


Of the 150 species of fish in Illinois waters, 128 vari- 
eties are found in the Illinois River basin. Lakes and streams 
of Fulton and Mason counties yield nearly all these speciest 

Prior to 1900, the Illinois River had the reputation of being 
one of the most productive streams for fish in the country. 
At least 70 per cent of all the fish taken from the streams of 
the state came from it. Statistics published at the beginning 
of the century show that approximately fourteen and a half mil- 
lion pounds of fish were shipped from Illinois River ports each 


Unrestrained language was likely to be costly for early 
Illinois residents, particularly if the lapse occurred on the 
Sabbath. The state's first legislators provided a fine as 
high as $50 for Sunday cursing. On week days such expressions 
were not so expensive it is said. 

An early Chicago ordinance prohibited ladies from woaring 
hats in the theater. Offenders were subject to a fine, and 
theater managers who permitted the practice suffered even 
greater penalties than did the owner of the hat. 

Page Sixt y-E i g h t 

Stories from Illinois History 


A notable Illinois military record is associated with the 
history of Stark County, John Stark, for whom the county was 
named, fought in the French and Indian v /ar, 1763, was a colo- 
nel at Bunker Hill and later in the War of the Revolution 
became a brigadier general. The area that bears his name now 
covers 290 square miles. Toulon is the seat of government. 


Illinois has its share of "haunted house" stories but 
accounts of haunted bridges are rare. At Henry, residents 
still tell of a nearby bridge that townsfolk avoided for many 

A citizen of Henry coming home one night in a somewhat 
merry but sleepy mood, it is related, stopped to rest on the 
river bank underneath the bridge over Cow Creek. About mid- 
night a party of young people paused nearby to chat. The talk 
turned to ghost stories. After one especially gruesome tale, 
the lone citizen shouted, "It's all imagination!" 

The terrified youths, panic stricken, ran home and the 
next day spread the word that the bridge was haunted. Their 
story was so convincing, it is said, that for years some 
townspeople would go miles out of their way to avoid crossing 
the bridge at night. 

Page Sixt y-N i n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Pioneers of Illinois did not bother much about formalities 
in their voting at least, not so far as ballot boxes wore con- 
cerned. In Adams County, the first ballot box is said to have 
been a tin tea pot, used in the presidential election of 1824, 
The first ballot box in Marion County has been described as be- 
ing about the size of an ordinary cigar box. On it the pioneers 
cheerfully inscribed in ink, "Candidates' Coffin." 


Illinois, the home of approximately eight million people, 
has a basement of red granite. The forces of nature began to 
build it some 600,000,000 years ago. 

Reports show the Paleozoic era was chiefly responsible for 
the underground rock formation in Illinois and adjacent states. 
During this time, the continents were first inundated by marine 
waters and later buried under coal bogs. As tho third of the 
five great geologic eras, the Paleozoic is said to have ex- 
tended over approximately 400,000,000 years. The eras which 
followed — the Mesozoic and Cenozoic — lasted, scientists 
say, 150,000,000 and 50,000,000 years, respectively. 

The basement structure of Illinois is known to average 
depths of nearly 4,000 feet. In the northern part of the state, 
near Amboy, a well that was drilled several years ago reached a 
total depth of 3,772 feet and struck pre-Paleozoic red granite 
at a level of 3,760 feet. 

Pago Seventy 

Stories from Illinois History 


High limestone bluffs flanking the Illinois River as it 
winds through Greene County rank {among the popular scenic at- 
tractions of the state. The bluffs, estimated to be at least 
7,000,000 years old, rise from 100 to 200 feet in height and 
extend for some 25 miles from the Scott County line southward 
to Macoupin Creek. 

Although some ax-e crowned by tree and other plant growths, 
most of them have sand crests. Years ago, these mounds were 
the favorite burial groiuids of Indian tribes. Many implements, 
such as stone hatchets, axes, pipes, knives, and arrow-heads, 
have been unearthed here. 


Wheat production in Illinois would have lagged consider- 
ably but for the initiative and foresight of one of its 
pioneers, an Ohio farmer, Edward Talbott, who cerae to Cum- 
berland County about 1842 and later was county sheriff. He 
believed Illinois soil was especially adaptable to wheat grow- 
ing and was willing to invest money to prpve his contention. 

By canal boat and over wagon trail. Talbott brought mill 
machinery from Warren, Ohio, to Cumberland Mills, and through 
his efforts and the influence of the mill, the section rapidly 
became an outstanding area of the state in wheat production. 

Page Sevent y-0 n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Illinois historians, who have written accounts of the dra- 
matic rise and decline of nany communities throughout the state 
that are now only "ghost towns," have learned of a site on which, 
not one, but two towns played brief roles and then vanished, 
A century-old cemetery at the meeting of the Kankakee and Des 
Plaines rivers in Channahon Township, Will County, alone marks 
the point where homes and industries once flourished* 

Kankakee City, the first settlement, embraced 2,000 acres 
and cpme into existence during the land boom of the 1830* s. 
However, during the panic of 1837, its 70 families began to 
seek homes elsewhere* 

During the 1870' s sandstone was discovered in the region, 
and with the need for building, materials following the great 
fire in Chicago, quarries called for workers and the town of 
Shermanville rose on the ruins of Kankakee City, But when de- 
mand ceased, Shermanville, like itc predecessor, became a part 
of the record of Illinois "ghost towns." 


In 1868, proud Illinois parents of a ten pound boy at 
Ottawa placed an advertisement in a local newspaper in search 
of a good name for the lad. Fellow residents nay have been 
too busy during the period of reconstruction following the 
Civil War to give much time to the problem, for none of the 
suggestions seems to have been satisfactory, A history book 
gave the answer. After studying it a while, the parents sent 
a news item to the same paper, announcing that the little fel- 
low's surnames would be Grant Sherman Sheridan Rosencranz Hook- 
er Burnside Fremont Stanton Lincoln Schuyler Colfax Pusey. 

Page Sovent y-T w o 

Stories from Illinois History 


Present day corn-husking experts, who use improved methods 
to speed their efforts, would find "old timers" worthy competi- 

A reporter for the Ch icago Times of January 3, 1881, wrote: 
"One corn-husker in Fulton County has figured up a total of 
four thousand two hundred and twenty bushels in fifty two days, 
making an average of a little more than eighty-one bushels per 
day. The corn averaged forty-seven bushels per acre." In one 
day he husked 114 bushels. The smallest yield for the same 
time was 51 bushels. 

The 1933 Illinois corn-husking record stands at 32,76 
bushels in one hour and a half, according to the Illinois 
Agricultural Associ?.tion. 


In 1850 Illinois had 10,238 public school buildings, most 
of them small one-room structures, and many of log construc- 
tion. In 1871, out of a total of 11,011 school buildings, 
1,089 were log school houses. That year 20,181 school teach- 
ers were employed. 


A small group of Gaelic- speaking Scottish Highlanders 
settled in Illinois in the 1860's, For several years the 
highlanders did not have a pastor for their church at Elmira, 
as most of the congregation, which numbered about one hundred, 
could understand but little English. At Length the services 
of a Gaelic- speaking Highlander and preacher were obtained. 

Page Sevent y-T h r e e 

Stories from Illinois History 


A heavily wooded Illinois island of three acres in Rock 
River, near Oregon, in Ogle County, is named Margaret Fuller 
Island in honor of the New England author and lecturer, Mar- 
garet Fuller, 1810-185C. In July, 1843, Miss Fuller, who for 
many years contributed literary criticisms and special articles 
to Horace Greeley's New York Tribune , visited Oregon, then an 
outlying pioneer settlement. Moved by the beauty of the country, 
she described it in enthusiastic term6. 

On July 4, it is related, she picnicked on the bluff, Eagle 
Rock, which overlooks Rock River, and inspired by the beauty of 
the scenery wrote the poem, "Ganymede to His Eagle." The name 
was drawn from the youth in classical mythology who was trans- 
formed into an eagle and taken by Jove to Mount Olympus to be 
cup bearer for the gods. She applied the name to the spring 
that flows from the foot of Eagle Rock, and it is still called 
Ganymede Spring. 


Residents of at least one early Illinois community were 
called upon to incorporate as a town primarily to curb roving 
domestic animals threatening its safety and order. An histori- 
cal account of Carlyle, Clinton County, tells of a notice pro- 
posing incorporation that was posted in 1837 by a citizen who 
complained of "divers nuisances" in the form of dogs and other 
quadrupeds. The meeting was scheduled for the school house 
and all "persons interested" were asked to attend* 

Page Sevent y-F our 

Stories from Illinois History 


Among newspaper editors who have found disarming ways to 
present delinquent subscribers with warnings is one early Illi- 
nois editor who set forth his message in a news item, in 18781 

"The Mattoon Journal gets down near the truth when it says 
that 'the fannors lose nearly as much money every year from hog 
cholera as newspapermen do by delinquent subscribers." 1 

In 1880, an item in the Chicago Times , pointed out that 
the editor of the Galesburg Free Press , finding a number of 
readers neglected to pay for their subscriptions, "concluded 
that they had been misled by the word free*" Accordingly, the 
article went on to state, he changed the name to the Galesburg 
Press * 

"He says with delightful naivete," the article continued, 
"that he does not see that the change has had much effect upon 
his list." 


In 1840, Dane County, Illinois, was renamed Christian 
County. It had been established as Dane County in 1839 to 
honor Congressman Nathan Dane, author of the famous "North- 
western Ordinance." 

However, Nathan Dane was an ardent Federalist, a party 
widely opposed in Illinois at the time. The new name was 
selected because many of the inhabitants wore from Christian 
County, Kentucky. 

S e v e n t y-F i v e 

Stories from Illinois History 


In 1871, the seriousness of the rapid depletion of Illinois 
timberlands was realized, and farmers were advised to turn their 
attention to raising trees. 

Two bills on the subject were then being considered by the 
Illinois legislature. One proposed to exempt from taxation all 
land set apart for tree culture; the other offered a bounty of 
half a cent for every tree over six feet high except those 
raised for sales by nurserymen. 


The well-dressed hunter on Illinois during the 1850' s 
could not call his wardrobe complete unless it contained a 
"wammus." This garment resembled a short top coat, generous in 
width. Around the inside was sewn a great pocket for carrying 
small game. One historian observed that some pioneers found it 
a convenient place to conceal small quantities of food stuff, 
such as fruit and vegetables, happily found in the course of 
nocturnal ramb lings. 


Back in 1897, a unique oil strike in Illinois at Varna, 
Marshall County, struck terror to the citizens, A newspaper 
writer reported that "water from the town well has tasted of 
oil for some time and it was thought that some one had thrown 
kerosene into it." When a resident who was determined to clean 
out the well lowered a lantern into it, a gas explosion blew 
the platform and pump from their foundations and shook the whole 

Pago Sevent y-S i x 

Stories from Illinois History 


Robber's Den, Miner's Gulch, Tower Rock, and Neptune's 
Spring are points of special interest to the hundreds of tour- 
ists and campers who follow the foot trails In Apple River 
Canyon State Park, 600 acre tract of northwestern' Illinois. 

Limestone cliffs, rising from 60 to 250 feet, form a gorge 
five miles long through which runs the narrow channel of the 
clear Apple River. Wolf, fox, mink, and raccoon live safely in 
the park, and the river is well stocked with small-mouthed bass. 
The state maintains rigid supervision for the protection of 

In 1838 a village called Millville flourished in the cen- 
ter of the canyon, and was a stop on the Galena-Chicago stage- 
coach line. When the Black Hawk War threatened the pioneers in 
the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin country, settlers 
of Millville were forced to flee from their homes. 


In 1891, a hobo becr-ne an Illinois hero by averting a 
serious train accident, Walking along the tracks toward Cen- 
tral City, he discovered a broken rail. Something of a "rail- 
road man" himself, he hurried to report the matter. A section 
gang rushed toward the break and reached the scene in time to 
stop a limited train. The transient sauntered away, but was 
soon overtaken, and escorted to Champaign where he was enter- 
tained as a hero. 

Page Sevent y— S even 

Stories from Illinois History 


"Labor subscriptions" built an early Illinois seminary when 
funds could not be secured. Residents of Henry County, an early 
historian relates, decided that a higher institution of learning 
was urgently needed at Geneseo. Men of the community gladly 
contributed their services, and completed the structure "without 
money and without price." 


Many of the birds common in Illinois years ago havo either 
disappeared entirely or else are greatly diminished in number. 

On a summer day in 1871, Robert Ridgeway, famous ornithol- 
ogist of Richland County, observed 145 species of native and 
migratory birds in the prairies and woods west of Olney, ac- 
cording to an authority. Among these were Baltimore orioles, 
warbling and red-eyed vireos, mocking birds, brown thrashers, 
yellow-breasted chats, field sparrows, chewinks, cardinals, 3ob 
Whites, white-eyed vireos, Bell's vireos, vermilion tanagers, 
blue jays, red-headed woodpeckers, Dick Ci3Sels, Henlow's bunt- 
ings, yellow-winged sparrows, prairie larks, meadow larks, 
swallow- tailed kites, and ravens. 

Other writers of the period noted the abundance of wild 
fowl in the rice fields along the Illinois River, and tell of 
seeing cranes, gallinules, coots, wood duck, mallards, teals, 
snipes, bitterns, blue herons, snowy egrets, mud hens, blue- 
bills, springtails, greenwings, brants, sr.ndhill cranes, white 
swans, white pelicans, wild geese, and hooded mergansers. 

Page Scvent y-E i g h t 

Stories from Illinois History 


Illinois river boatmen learned their picturesque profession 
pertly in boyhood by hunting for articles of merohandise lost 
from sunken craft# 

Notwithstanding the amazing skill of the boatmen, who knew 
every shoal and eddy of the rivers and streams, boats were often 
swept onto rocks or crowded to the shore. If such misfortune 
befell a craft, it would likely sink and its cargo be scattered 
for miles along the river channel. At first news of disaster, 
young boys ran to the river front to search for lost articles* 
In so doing they learned the importance and hazards of river 
currents and thus prepared themselves for the work of boatmen. 


Man's age old quest for ways to avoid or to assuage suffer- 
ing prompted early Illinois residents in some instances to use 
many devices in the interests of health. 

Some persons confidently believed that a shovelful of hot 
coals waved over the head of a patient suffering from erysipelas 
would effect a cure, in a magical manner. Onions carried in a 
pocket wore thought to be potent enough to stagger nearly any 
ordinary variety of ache or pain. Horse chestnuts or cedar 
knots were considered in some quarters to be just as good* 

In place of any of these accessories, some persons strung 
gum camphor around the neck or wore rings made from a potato. 
Likewise copper bands were placed about the neck, wrist, or 
ankle for the purpose, it seems, of either charming the agents 
of good health or making its enemies very dizzy. 

Page Sevent y-N i n e 

Stories fro 3 Illinois History 


Many Illinois comities are named for men who fought for 
American Independence. Indeed, nearly one in every three coun- 
ties honors a leader in the Revolutionary War, 

Familiar names among the State's 102 counties are Henry, 
Jefferson, and Washington, but there are the many less familiar 
names of persons who played significant roles in the early 
struggle. Three counties are named for distinguished foreign- 
ers who fought the British side by side with the colonists. 
General La Fayette of France, Casimir Pulaski, a Pole, and 
Baron De Kalb, born in Germany but a soldier in French armies 
for many years. La Fayette is commemorated in the name of 
Fayette County, The article "La" was dropped from the name 
long ago in popular usuage. De Xalb was given the- rank of 
major-general and was killed in the battle of Camden. Pulaski, 
who was exiled from Poland for assisting hi3 father in a re- 
volt against the king, was killed in the attack on Savannah 
while leading a cavalry charge. 

Mrs. John Edgar really deserves the credit for Edgar 
County's name, it is claimed, for it was she who persuaded 
her husband, General John Edgar, a British army officer, to 
join the forces of the rebelling colonists. 

Other counties are named for General Francis Marion, Gen- 
eral Philip Schuyler, Governor Isaac Shelby, Daniel Boone, 
George Sogers Clark, 3enjamin Franklin, General Nathaniel 
Greene, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock, Richard Henry Lee, 
John Morshall, General Hugh Mercer, James Monroe, General 
Israel Putnc-m, General John Stark, General Anthony Wayne, Gen- 
eral Daniel Morgan, Edmund Randolph, General Arthur St. Clair, 
General Joseph Warren, Nathaniel Macon, General Richard Mont- 
gomery, Sergeant William Jasper, General Moultrie, General 
Henry Knox, and Charles Carroll. 

Page Eighty 

Stories from Illinois History 


During one Illinois rainstorm recorded at La Harpe, Hancock 
County, on June 10, 1905, over ten inches of rain fell to set a 
record. The severity of the storm may he realized when it is 
known that the average mean actual rainfall in the whole State 
is only 37,4 inches, according to statistics collected at 142 
stations from 1881 to 1910. 


Prairie fires menaced early settlers in Illinois as well 
as pioneers in states farther west. Historians point out that 
one of the most effective methods of halting these conflagra- 
tions was to plow around the farms and sometimes even entire 
towns. Often a space two to ten furrows wide was hastily 
plowed up to block the advancing fires, or "back fires" were 
started to burn areas in the path of the flames. Notwithstand- 
ing this and other precautions, a number of early Illinois 
settlements were wiped out by flames that reached across wood- 
land and prairie to jump the gaps of freshly plowed land* 


For over a half a century, beginning with 1839, prepara- 
tions for a widely known Illinois Independence Day celebration 
held in Macoupin County featured the placing of the "liberty 

On the day preceding Fourth of July, a committee would 
select a slender, tall tree, cut it down, and strip it of bark 
and branches. The pole would then be taken to the site of the 
festivities and firmly implanted In the ground between heavy 
posts. On the day of the celebration, the largest flag 
obtainable was hoisted to the top. 

Page Eight y-0 n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Ro\igh -nd ready proposals of marriage v/ere not uncommon 
in the early days of Illinois. An historian of Effinghrm County 
recounts the story of an er.rly settler who, V7hen his wife died, 
set out to find another. Arriving at the home of one eligible 
lady he called her out and after looking her over as she stood 
in the doorway he announced that she did not suit him. He then 
rode on to the home of a widow, with whom he was suitably im** 
pressed, for he commanded her to go with him at once to the 
magistrate and be married. At first she refused because he 
spoke roughly to her, but she relented and the ceremony was 


Early accounts show that Illinois Indians were very quick 
to learn the English language. An historian of McHcnry County 
tells of two squaws who were better educated than some of the 
backwoods preachers. On one occasion during a long sermon, 
the women were seen to caause themselves by making notes of the 
grammatical blunders made by the itinerant evangelist. 


Illinois pioneers of a century ago were happy if they 
could grow enough crops to provide for their own needs, and 
occasionally for limited market demands. Today field workers 
for the State's Division of Agricultural Statistics measure 
crop frontages while riding in automobiles. A crop meter is 
attached to the speedometer drive. By retracing routes 
year after year, an annual acreage comparison is obtained for 
each important crop. The widespread paved road system of the 
State is of much aid in metering the acreage change. 

Page Eight y-T w o 

Stories from Illinois History 


Timber, which was once a source of considerable revenue in 
one Illinois county, may again be a valuable product if a re- 
forestation experiment, now being carried on, is successful. A 
tract of 15,000 acres, lying between Fountain Bluff and Big 
Muddy River in Jackson County, is now being allowed to revert 
to its natural state, and under systematic forestry management, 
it is believed, will, in the course of some years, be profit- 

The experiment is being conducted in an area in which ef- 
forts have been make to drain the land by dredging. This work, 
however, has failed because of the heavy quality of the soil. 
If the experiment develops well, the timber will be a consider- 
able addition to the list of local resources* Little market- 
able timber is now left in the county, as most of the wooded 
areas have been cut over several times. 


For a time, years ago, an Illinois town had two names. 
About 1904, Craig, in Perry County, was re-nnmed Winkle, after 
the new mine owner, Joseph Winkle, who purchased a large tract 
of land, began sinking a coal mine. Later, twenty small houses 
were erected for the mine workers. Until then "Craig" had only 
three or four houses. 

Because of another station in the State with a name sim- 
ilarly spelled, the Post Office refused to change the station 
from "Craig" to "Winkle." Mail meant for "Winkle" had to be 
e.ddressed to "Craig." The dilemma of the two-name community 
continued until decline of the town brought about the dis- 
continuance of the local postal station. 

Page Eight y-T h r e e 

Stories from Illinois History 


When musical harmony got in the way of gastronomy back in 
the 1870' s, the art of good 'eating won the day in Illinois. 
A newspaper item of 1874 tells of fourteen practical citizens 
of Quincy, who signed a pledge not to allow their daughters to 
study music until the girls had learned to bake bread* 


If Delaware Indians, who once included northern Illinois 
land among their hunting grounds, were asked to count from one 
to ten, what they said would sound like this: cota, nitia, na- 
ka, nawai, palini, kotash, nishkosh, kosh, pashcon, telon. 

This numerical system was recorded over 65 years ago by 
an early historian. From these numerals and other terms, stu- 
dents infer that the language of the Delawares was one of the 
highly developed Indian dialects. 


Bond County, now one of the small Illinois counties, was 
among the largest in 1818. As the county was organized be- 
fore Illinois became a State of the Union, it was represented 
in the Constitutional Convention of 1818 by two delegates. 

In 1821 large slices of the county were shaved off to 
form Montgomery and Fayette counties, and in 1825, another 
large section became Clinton County, Bond County was then so 
snail that a portion of Madison County was added to it in 1843, 

Page Eight y-F our 

Stories from Illinois History 


Important parts of the Illinois public school system and 
curriculum, taken for granted today, were accepted only after 
long and bitter legislative battles during the closing decades 
of the nineteenth century. 

The compulsory education bill, defeated in 1877, on the 
ground that it was a menace to a free country and a forerunner 
of a compulsory state religion, was passed in 1879. 

Physiology and hygiene were looked upon with disfavor by 
many, even after the subjects were introduced into the public 
school curriculum by state law in 1889. After a fifteen-year 
struggle the kindergarten bill, passed in 1895, received sharp 
criticism from those who called it a "fad." 


A high Illinois bluff in Wabash County, known as "Patrick 1 s 
Defeat," got its nrjne from the ill-fated attempt of two Irish- 
men to build a dam and water mill on Coffee Creek at this 
point. Two brothers, Patrick and Thomas McGee, it is said, 
placed severed hewed logs across the creek sometime previous 
to 1840. Their efforts to make the dam hold, however, were 
unsuccessful. The hewed logs are no longer there but the 
place retains the name of "Patrick's Defeat," 

Page Eight y-F i v e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Illinois historians who seek to give a complete account of 
the changing life in the state during the past thirty years 
will have to look carefully at automobile license plates. 

In addition to yearly changes in color, many different 
sizes, shapes, and arrangements of numerals helped officials 
to detect quickly any driver who thought that a license plate 
could be used for more than one year. 

Occasionally, however, sizes remain uniform during a num- 
ber of years, as, for example, between 1922-33, when the plates 
were long and narrow. Marked variations in size were intro- 
duced during the following two years, but since 1935 only 
slight changes in measurements have been made* 

The year was not indicated at all on 1911 license plates, 
and in 1912 and 1913 it could not be readily noted. The cus- 
tom of dividing the digits, by a dash, whereby the number of 
even a speeding automobile can be recognized, was begun in 


As early as 1860 Illinois became interested in scientific 
agricultural instruction. A newspaper of July 26 of that year 
issued a call for a convention of the people of Illinois, to 
be held at Bloomington the following month, to devise some 
means of establishing a "permanent system of agricultural in- 
struction on a practical and economical basis." 

Page Eight y-S i x 

Stories from Illinois History 


The site of the town of Oquaka, Illinois, was originally 
purchased for the sum of $200. Immediately the value of the 
site doubled and redoubled. One fourth of the original site 
was sold for $24,000 in 1337, it is said, and shortly after- 
wards the buyer sold only a small part of this purchase, yet 
realized the full amount of his investment. 


Early settlers in Teutonia Township in Effingham County, 
Illinois, drew slips of paper to decide what farms they would 
occupy. A 10,000-acre tract of land was originally purchased 
by a committee of Cincinnati Germans. The members then returned 
to Cincinnati with the titles to the property and arranged a 
"grab bag" by which prospective settlers drew slips of paper, 
designating their portion of land. Later, the 141 pioneers 
migrated to Effingham County and organized Teutonia Township. 

Page Eight y-S even 

Stories from Illinois History 


Perhaps no other Illinois example of the famous ginkgo 
tree is more noteworthy than the one preserved in Du Page County 
at Downer's Grove. This fine tree is cultivated widely through- 
out China and Japan. Its white, fine-grained, and easily worked 
wood is used extensively by the Japanese for small carved 
pieces, such as chessmen. Chinese consider it sacred. 

According to naturalists, the mature tree often measures 
10 feet in diameter and 125 feet high. It resists heat, winds, 
attacks from insects and fungus, and frequently lives for 1000 


Some of the wooden pipes once comnonly used as water con- 
duits in Illinois, continued in service until early in the 
twenty century. It is said that the missionaries who stopped 
at Falling Springs, St. Clair County, to teach the Indians, 
harnessed the water hy means of hollow logs and used its power 
to operate their mill. 

As late as 1915, the rapidly growing city of Elmhurst, Du 

Page County, depended solely upon six inch wooden water mains 

leading from springs, three miles distant, for its water sup- 

Page Eight y-E i g h t 

Stories from Illinois History 


Many land surveys were made in Illinois during the latter 
part of the nineteenth century. An instance of the need for 
such surveys was noted in the experience of an early settler in 
Cook County. 

Immediately upon arrival there in 1846, he started farming 
a 40 acre tract, which, it is said, he purchased for $2.75. A 
score or more years later, a survey showed that the original 
purchase embraced 140 acres. The error was attributed to the 
descriptive methods employed in fixing boundaries, which were 
picturesque but subject to misinterpretations. Sometimes 
landmarks used for such boundaries changed more than once. 


Bicycle riding, for both sport and transportation, was the 
subject of varied editorial and legislative opinion during the 
early years of its history in Illinois. 

In 1881, one newspaper advocated keeping bicycles off the 
streets, asserting that they frightened the horses, and in 1891 
a bill was introduced in the State Legislature to prohibit bi- 
cycle-riding "in cities, towns and on traveled roads." How- 
ever, devotees went ahead with the promotion of their hobby, 
and by 1892, general acceptance of the "wheel" was shown by 
the publication of "bike racing" results in newspapers. 

?age Eight y-N i n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


If an Illinois legislator in 1875 had succeeded in per- 
suading fellow lawmakers to adopt his way of thinking, the 
State would now have no public school buildings that cost more 
then $2,000 each. A Joliet newspaper reported a bill intro- 
duced in the legislature in 1875 which would fix "the maximum 
cost of any school building in the state" at that amount. To- 
day's school authorities say that the larger, modern elementary 
school plants cost between $100,000 and $500,000. 


An Illinois resident gave to the world, a famous Swiss 
marching song. In a pear orchard on a farm south of Highland, 
Madison County, is the grave of Heinrich Bosshard, who lived 
in Highland from 1851 until his death in 1877. Some time durn 
ing those years, Bosshard wrote Sempacher Lied , a Swiss patri- 
otic poem commemorating the Battle of Sempach, fought in 1836 
between the Austrains and the Swiss. 

Page Ninety 

Stories from Illinois History 


According to an early historical account, a wag succeeded 
in making some Illinois legislators believe one of his "tall" 
stories, and, as a result a famous city of the state got its 
name. When the site for a State Capitol had been selected by 
the first legislature, the joker pointed out that it should be 
Vandal ia to honor and perpetuate the name of a great lost race 
of Indians, called the Vandals, who once inhabited the region. 
Unwittingly, it is said, the solons accepted the story and 
agreed on the name* 


Hordes of chinch bugs created such havoc among Illinois 
grain fields fifty-one years ago that in desperation farmers 
in some sections stopped growing wheat, rye, and barley. Pro- 
gressive Crawford County farmers, for example, initiated a 
movement to eradicate the pest by agreeing to raise no wheat, 
barley, or rye for three seasons. They informed the State De- 
partment of Agriculture of their action and started campaigns 
to interest grain growers of other counties. 


An Illinois story current in St. Clair County for many 
years concerns a jack knife that went from owner to owner sig- 
nifying that its possessor was the homeliest man in the vicin- 

iJ y hnnflol t ?v ng $ r fron i th S East ? e ^ ¥ mMk in Belleville, to whom 
ne handed the famous knife, explaining that he had been in- 
structed to carry it until he found a homelier man than himself. 
The knife was refused by the person accosted, who said that his 
brother should have it. The brother accepted it and later 
passed it on to a resident in a neighboring county, according 
to the story. 

Page Ninet y-0 n e 

Stories from Illinois History 


Sixty comely Illinois young Indies sewing seams in odd 
pieces of cloth, placing patches on worn garments, and working 
buttonholes became front page news in 1898. 

The girls were taking examinations to qualify as sewing 
teachers in the public schools of the state. School boards 
demanded teachers with a practical knowledge of sewing, and ex- 
aminations were devised to test the exact extent of their abil- 
ities in this subject. 

In addition to the actual sewing quiz, tests were given in 
"textiles, physiology, arithmetic, algebra to quadratics, plane 
geometry, and the methods of teaching." 


Beginning a drive for endowment funds 103 years ago, an 
Illinois college sold perpetual scholarships entitling their 
holders, or their descendants, to send students free of tuition 
to the college as long as it remained in existence* 

Two kinds of perpetual scholarships were offered a.t that 
time by McKendree College at Lebanon - one that sold for $500 
and the other for $1,000. Holders of the first type, some of 
which are still in use, it is said, could send one student 
free of tuition forever, and the other provided for free board 
and room in addition. Certificates for some of the latter kind 
of scholarship still exist, but have not been used for many 

Page Ninet y-T w o 

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